It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

In the wake of Cannes week, it behoves us to ask one important question –

Are you a corpse or a c*ck-sucker ?

Because, according to some leading lights of the music industry, people who work in adland are either one or the other.

According to Will.i.am, “”Ad agencies are yesterday”. He was speaking in Cannes, as the guest of the world’s ad agencies,  and he went on to say
“Yesterday’s ways of informing people don’t work today”.

Which, given the overall importance of “yesterday” in life, means that ad agencies are dead in the water.

Those corpses you can see floating in the harbour with little orange slides on them – they’re ad agencies.

And then in Private Eye you could read how Plan B had complained that there was too “too much c*ck-sucking” in the music business and then went on to mention his ad for Hewlett Packard.

(Actually the disparagement came from Private Eye rather than Plan B. Maybe the link of “c*ck-sucking = working for an ad agency” hadn’t occurred to Plan B. Whereas Private Eye, god bless ‘em, have always seen a strong link between a career in marketing and a love of the Aussie kiss.)

But Will.i.am’s  attack on the ad industry had a bit more rigour.

He said: “Right now it’s a unique time, because TV’s not what it used to be. It’s old technology. When you compare it to that guy’s tablet – he took a picture with it. Big old tablet two seconds ago. It changed.

“That smart tablet he has, the smart phone, it’s more powerful than the TV. It’s more powerful than any magazine, all the magazines at once.”

He urged the industry to find new, innovative solutions to cut through.

And I couldn’t agree more.

Here are a few cool ideas that do that, from all over the place.

Some of them even come from ad agencies.

VW hid tickets to a festival in several locations in Brazil.  Relevant tweets powered a Google map to zoom onto the various locations.

And ‘people searching for stuff’ went into overdrive with this amazing  Jay-Z idea from Droga5

Here’s an interesting example of using your Facebook network to form a more interesting network  – a “F*ck-tree”

I love this bit of Youtube interactivity to make music,  from some ad students

Or this in the real-world crossover  – taking  a stand against the death penalty

A beautifully layered, complex interactive documentary –


Data exploitation, courtesy of the BBC:


There’s a lot of really good weird sh*t happening re Augmented Reality

Like Esquire’s AR edition:

Or Word lens for translation:

Or this tube-station-finder:

A couple of interesting games …



I liked this incredibly  collaborative art project


Ikea creating content


Viv mag pushing the boundaries with iPad


And finally, an amazing musical App:

A great idea whether you’re a self-confessed player of the pink oboe, or not.

Let’s face it. When the ad industry gets its arse into gear and doesn’t moan about what’s happened to TV, it doesn’t suck c*ck.

It kicks arse.

Stimulus: Kathryn Parsons
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – Charles Dickens
“Self-confessed player of the pink oboe”  – Peter Cook
“Corpses with little orange slides on them” – Author’s own


    Mr Will.i.am is confusing TV with the TV.


    …and do share what it is that ‘happened to TV’ that worries you. Maybe I can put your mind at rest.

  • Iain Harrison

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for this. There are a few campaigns in there I’d not seen.

    I actually have the Ocarina. It’s an interesting way to interact with the iPhone, but I always expect little Elves to come along when I tunelessly play it.

    The greatest music App (and one of the greatest Apps full stop) is Bloom by Brian Eno and Peter Chivers. (I hope you haven’t come across it yet as you’ll undoubtedly want to send me a large cash gift for introducing you to it.)

    It can auto-generate music (based on Eno’s philosophy of ‘thinking music’) but the best comes when you yourself create the music by just tapping it.

    It may not be the most novel interaction, but it’s simple.

    There’s a lot that brands can learn from such simple, intuitive interaction. That goes for both digital and print. (Didn’t you once encourage an audience to interact with a Mazda commercial via video?)

    The turning of a door handle is a simple interaction. Likewise waving to a friend.

    What I like about the VW Fox campaign is that it capitalises on simple interaction. But at the end of the day it’s just a promotional mechanic. You may be able to achieve the same result with telephones and tellys, or even coupons and tellys.

    But no-one’s done that because it’s a rather long-winded and time-delayed way to do it.

    So yet again, I find another rule from last century’s advertising is relevant today: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

    Yep, we’re heading back to the future.

  • Alex Moore

    Thanks Steve, plenty in there I haven’t come across – Pine Point doc is really awesome

  • Steve Henry

    Hi Tess. I’m not talking about the health or otherwise of TV viewing figures (and I’ve always been very sceptical about how the industry measures ad-viewing, anyway !) I’m talking about the moaning – a nostalgic belief that there was a “good old days” when a so-called captive audience was there waiting to be sold to. That patronising and unrealistic attitude has been the bane of the ad industry. The arrival of the internet brought this into high focus. I happen to believe that newer models based around the net are closer to how market-places operate in the real world – people gather near point of purchase and discuss their choices with each other. But I’m not getting into whether TV “works” or not, I’m just saying that clinging to that old model is dangerous.

  • john woods

    Just throw a message at me and make it relevant and entertaining and not too taxing ‘cos I never invited you in.

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