Morality, money and mischief

“I think all this criticism of Jimmy Savile is unfair. He did a lot of good in his life. Personally, I will never forget the time when I was eight years old and he fixed it for me to have a go on a milking machine blindfolded”.

That’s the gag that got some credulous DJ in trouble when he read it out on air, thinking it was a genuine email.

(Surely  “blindfolded” was a giveaway. Even to a DJ.)

I don’t know what you think about the morality of that joke – but clearly there are many darker jokes than that on the internet, and it’s worth realising how the internet has undermined traditional approaches to morality as well as everything else.

And that ties in with a great piece in Campaign last week by Tracey Follows about the Wired 2012 conference.

The host, David Rowan, apparently described the event’s speakers as “the people who are not accepting the world as it is”. As Tracey wrote – the only answer required in order to succeed these days is this: disobey.

All the speakers seemed to love breaking the rules.

One of them was Thomas Heatherwick, designer of The Olympic cauldron. The organisers had told him “Whatever you do, make sure you don’t have any moving parts”. So he made something with 204 moving copper petals – and created the most striking and famous Olympic cauldron of all time.

All this is meat and drink to me. I’ve always said – show me a rule and I’ll tell you how much I want to break it. But, as Tracey wrote,  “Advertising … was an all-too apparent absentee from the event.”

What the f*ck.

Advertising used to be full of the sort of people who as kids had sat at the back of the classroom and tried to smoke a spliff when the teacher’s back was turned.

Now it feels like it’s full of the kids who sat at the front and told the teacher what was going on at the back.

Hoping to be paid for their trouble.

A love of money has taken over from a love of mischief, and we’re all the poorer for it.

Tracey wrote that the conference “had much to teach us about the triumph of creativity over mediocrity, mundanity and adversity”.

Actually there’s a new agency just launching called Mediocrity Mundanity and Adversity. Their goal is to sell in 4 years.

But a love of money is no use without realising what product  it is which you’re selling.  It’s about time we realised that creatives are the rock stars in our industry … and they need to break the rules.

As Sir John Hegarty said at a recent Creative Social event, all great advertising is built on irreverence.

I couldn’t agree more.

As I said at the same event, I believe that our job is to make “weird shit”. Why ? Because that’s the currency of conversation. That’s what people talk about.

When you get home in the evening, what do you talk about with your flatmate or partner ? You could tell them about the boring Tube journey, the boring meeting, the boring sandwich – but that isn’t going to work very well.

But if you tell them about the punch-up in Reception or the sexual act which happened in the boardroom – well, that will work.

Weird shit is the currency of conversation, and if we want our work to be shared, we need to grasp that.

A well-executed shot of good-looking people using your product is the equivalent of an egg-and-cress sandwich from Greggs.

Now, like the old saying (don’t tell me you’re funny, tell me a joke), it’s no use talking about irreverence unless you live up to it.

So maybe we should get back to the Jimmy Savile gags.

But I bet you know them already – or if you don’t, there’s always Google.

Mind you, who needs gags when you read that Prince Charles asked Jimmy Savile to advise his erstwhile sister-in-law Fergie on keeping  a low public profile ?  That’s true, but there isn’t a single clause of it which isn’t weirder than any of the gags.

  • Ant Melder

    Hi Steve. The writer Julie Burchill has a great maxim along these lines: “If it ain’t broke – break it.” 

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