Artist’s ‘playful riff’ on Charles Saatchi

July 31, 2013

Charles Saatchi – NotCharles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson have just been granted a decree nisi in the  High Court, near finalising their divorce.  We thought to mark the occasion with an item that puts former adman Charlieboy in his rightful context: as a celebrated patron of controversial Art.

A young British artist (who for entirely understandable reasons prefers to remain anonymous) has created a life-size model of Saatchi with a hand outstretched ready to choke anyone who interacts with the piece. The work is entitled ‘Playful Tiff’ – the words Charles used to describe the incident where he lovingly placed his hand around his wife Nigella Lawson’s neck at Scott’s restaurant in London. Viewers of ‘Playful Tiff’ are invited to place their neck in Saatchi’s hand and capture the historic moment with a photo on their mobile phone.
For good measure, and in line with the impish persona Saatchi has used to promote his book, ‘Be The Worst You Can Be’, the model is bright red and comes with a set of horns.
The artwork is on display at the Jealous Gallery at Crouch End in north London.

We suspect this particular exhibit will soon be occupying pride of place in the Saatchi Gallery.

Just choking.

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Mad Men Series 6 – and the trouble with Harry’s dress sense

March 8, 2013

Mad MenOK readers, who’s the dude in the middle with the tasteful mustard jacket, silk cravat and sideburns? None other than our old pal Harry Crane, head of media at Sterling Cooper Draper (we imagine the “Pryce” has been dropped after recent events, but you never know: Stanley Pollitt, of BMP, continued to perform miracles after he had been dead for years).

Anyway, back to Crane and the latest series of Mad Men, which returns to US screens (but not alas our own, unless we’re Sky subscribers) on April 7th. The trouble with Harry is he’s such a fashion victim – a weak personality seeking momentary identification with every passing sartorial trend. In the past, that’s mostly meant a new pair of outrageously over-emphatic adman’s glasses. But here, in series 6, the preppy-groovy look has completely taken over.

Not much sign of that in Roger, other than slightly lengthened sideburns. And none at all in Don, who retains a circa-1959 cool dress sense. Let’s hope he’s finally disposed of the fedora. We thought that went out with President Kennedy. But Don was still wearing his in 1966. It’s one of those few, painful, anachronisms that crop up in the meticulously researched Lionsgate series. Another solecism was the otherwise elegantly restrained Pryce’s table manners when he was (as he thought) wining and dining his future Jaguar client. Still more so Mrs Pryce’s faux pas when she uttered, in a perfect cut-glass accent, the word “gotten”. No one in England has used that word since about 1800; it’s “got”.

Still, let’s not quibble over what remains an excellent series. We’ll all be glued to the screen. Once, at least, the DVD is released.

Meantime, here are a couple more shots to emerge from the studioDraper

Crane


Brands put the “r” into bands

January 31, 2013

imagesLeonardo da Vinci was dependent on the Duke of Milan, Cesare Borgia and the King of France; Wolfgang Mozart, the Archbishop of Salzburg – while the aristocratic Esterhazys supported Joseph Haydn. Throughout the ages, artists have had a necessary, if problematic, relationship with patrons. Or, as they are now known, sponsors.

These days, the rich and the powerful bestowers of largesse are brands; one thing that hasn’t changed is the contentious issue of artistic integrity. How far should talent go in prostituting itself in order to earn a crust? Some would say the New Seekers, who re-recorded Coca-Cola’s immortal “I’d like to teach the world to sing” commercial as a chart-busting single back in 1971, crossed the line in genuflecting to Mammon, however “altruistic” the message.

But whatever The New Seekers may, or may not, have done is a moon-cast shadow compared with today’s flexi-ethics. With record labels going down the tube, and online piracy rampant, how is the gig going to make money? The answer for many (should they be so lucky) is to insert an “r” into band. Brands have not been slow to exploit this opportunity. Nike, the arch ambush-brand, may not “own” the rapper Drake, but it certainly makes sure he’s well supplied with every imaginable item of swooshed kit. Likewise Martell has picked up on the “gnac” in hip-hop culture and uses music as a means of penetrating the African-American market, where (exceptionally) brandy is on an upward consumption curve.

My old chum Peter Krijgsman has, slightly cynically, gone one step further in “cutting out the middleman” and making an explicit appeal for product placement in his latest (and possibly only, he tells me) album, Digital Age Blues. Of particular interest is this little C&W number “Sponsor Me”, containing such catchy lyrics as:

“Don’t think of me as a humble song, but as an opportunitee, Yes sir. You’ll get a big bag of crochets for a very modest fee, you’ll grow like a pig from Idaho when you sponsor me.”

I don’t know how tongue-in-cheek this “offering” is from Peter, whom some may better remember as a comms director at BarCap and ING. But it can’t be denied it is slick.  The band is Krijgsman and Sid Stronach. Helen Knight and Claire Macauley are the backing singers. And here it is in full: Sponsor_Me.



Is this man wearing a Burberry?

June 11, 2012

Here’s this week’s brand identification test. Study carefully the following image of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman taken from a scene in the classic movie Casablanca.

Now answer the following multiple-choice question. Is Bogie’s trench-coat:

a) A Burberry?

b) An Aquascutum?

c) Neither of these?

If a), Burberry could be in serious trouble. And certainly the Bogart estate, represented by 63-year-old son of the actor, Stephen Bogart, thinks it should be. So much so that the estate is suing Burberry over trademark infringement (that’s Bogie’s trademark, not the trench-coat’s) after the London fashion house allegedly purloined an image of the actor wearing the coat for a Facebook page.

According to Bogart Jnr, the image is there purely and simply to promote Burberry sales – and shows a marked “disrespect” for the family’s legal rights.

Not so, says Burberry. It has riposted with a counter-suit alleging the picture of ‘Bogie’ was a historical reference in a timeline, and protected under America’s First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech.

Lawyer Michael Crain, representing the Bogart estate, reckons his client’s case case is historic because it tackles the issue of identity theft in social media. But that will only be so if Burberry fails to establish that its purpose in using the image was educational, and therefore not commercial.

A more nagging question for brand buffs – and perhaps for Burberry itself – is whether Bogie’s coat, which makes its appearance in the closing scenes of the 1942 movie classic, is actually a Burberry.

Young Stephen raises the tantalising prospect that it is not. “It is well known,” he tells us cryptically, “that my father was a loyal Aquascutum customer in his personal life.”

So, perhaps Aquascutum should get in on the legal gravy-train as well. Who knows? It could end up costing Burberry millions of dollars.


Social media explained – with the help of some dubious statistical illustrations

May 28, 2012

If only the maximum character count were 200, 90 million Germans could finish a sentence on Twitter… Already, 150 children have been given a first name starting with @…. 27% of Facebook server capacity is taken up storing “LOL”… The second biggest lie after ‘I love you, too’ is: ‘You have been successfully unsubscribed from our database’.

These and numerous other imperishable social media factoids are to be found on a video made for satire site The Poke. It purports to be a parody of a promotional video for Erik Qualman’s book, Socialnomics, though the parallel is light and the irony heavy:

My thanks to George Parker, at Adscam, for that. And here’s the video Technology Will Kill, for Qualman’s latest:

What will The Poke do with this I wonder?


Watch out, there’s a Hytner about – Jim takes the helm at IPG’s Initiative

March 4, 2012

Interesting to see that Jim Hytner – whose career has more switchbacks to it than the mille miglia – is once more emerging triumphant from the quicksand of a career in marketing.

Hytner has just replaced long-serving Richard Beaven as worldwide chief executive of Interpublic Group subsidiary Initiative. Beaven (a surprisingly urbane man for the head of a media-buying house) has apparently left to spend more time with his passion for photography, an alternative vocation he says he has toyed with since childhood.

While none of this is to be doubted, we wonder whether he was also uncomfortably lodged in a career cul-de-sac. Beaven was once seen as a successor to Nick Brien when Brien left Mediabrands (the overarching arm of Interpublic’s media operations) to take on the top job at McCann Worldgroup. But the Mediabrands role instead went to Beaven’s chief rival at Universal McCann, Matt Seiler, who has been aggressively reorganising McCann’s media operations ever since.

Anyway, enter Jim. He’s relatively new to the world of media buying, having joined another IPG subsidiary, Universal McCann’s G14 (essentially the bits that aren’t America), as its boss only two years or so ago. Like Brien, he’s a Brit who has done rather well in the upper echelons of American-dominated McCann – the traditional breadbasket of Interpublic Group. There, however, the parallel ends. Where Brien is essentially a media services specialist who has made it into top agency management, Hytner’s much more colourful career has embraced the full ambit of marketing: he’s been an FMCG client; marketing director at some of Britain’s top television companies; client at one of Britain’s leading banks; a digital content wonk; and is now trying his hand – seemingly successfully – at the agency business.

The first thing to note about Jim is he is the youngest scion of a talented and very competitive family. All three Hytner brothers – the sons of a successful Manchester barrister – have set the bar high in their chosen fields. Nicholas, now Sir Nicholas, is the director of the National Theatre with such successes as the Madness of George III and The History Boys to his name. Richard, a lawyer by training and a Sloan Fellow of London Business School, is now deputy chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide.

“Cheeky chappy” Jim, less cerebral than his two brothers (they went to Oxbridge; he went to a redbrick), gives every appearance of being a lot more entrepreneurial. Certainly the young Hytner was prepared to give anything a go. First, like his eldest brother, he tried to tread the boards, but this was trumped by a potential career as a chef de cuisine. The way he tells it, his attempts to follow in the footsteps of Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay stopped dead one night, when thanks to a kitchen shift at the exclusive Miller House Hotel in the Lake District, he suddenly realised he was going to miss the 1985 FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Everton. To say that Jim is fanatical about Manchester United would be a considerable understatement. He (like more self-effacing elder brother Richard – though I’m not so sure of Sir Nick’s views on this subject) eats, lives and breathes the club’s highs and lows. “It’s the one final I’ve ever missed in my whole life, so I thought I can’t be doing with this hotel lark,” he tells us. Haute cuisine‘s loss was marketing’s or, more specifically, Kraft’s gain.

To this day, football analogies are never long absent from Jim’s utterances. And, in truth, it is a passion that has stood his career in good stead in the laddish, sports-mad environments of Sky TV, ITV – where he was marketing director – and (dare I mention it?) media buying circles. Though what Americans make of all this “soccer” talk, I have no idea.

Will Jim ever reach the top – conceivably, in time, replacing Brien? Over the years, Hytner’s maverick antics have made him a rather endearing fixture of the UK marketing scene. But they have also raised questions about his gravitas. This, after all, was the man who dreamt up those infamous idents of celeb TV personality Keith Chegwin in the nude when he was marketing director of Channel 5. What Jim may choose to call “brave” others in the industry characterise as controversy for the sake of controversy. He did something to allay this enfant terrible reputation during a (comparatively sober) stint as UK marketing director of Barclays Bank. But it remains to be seen whether he has mellowed sufficiently in his middle years…


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