Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Commercial: The Hackney Wick

Word up all you North-east London scribblers. You might be interested in the following:

"The Hackney Wick", a new local arts paper, is looking for writers. The first issue looks explicitly at the subject of redevelopment, exploring in depth changes to the area adjacent to the Olympic site, as well as profiling the unique creative character of the area.

We're looking for people to explore:

New developments-

1. The buildings proposed by Thames Water Gateway - known as the Hackney Wick Hub and the effect that this will have on local businesses and artists. We'd like to have interviews with local people about their opinions on this as well as the company itself. We have permission from the company to publish the maps of their proposal.

2. Forman's (salmon factory, restaurant, and gallery) plan for a pop up restaurant and nightclub (to be called Swan Wharf) to coincide with the canal-side VIP entrance to the Olympic stadium.

3. The Folly for Flyover installation - part of the Create festival - buildings are beginning to be constructed from next week.

Folly for a Flyover, the project for which they have won the award, will engage directly with Hackney’s industrial and cultural history. The materials used to construct the site will be sourced from across Hackney Wick, including refuse from the Olympic Park. They will be put together through a process known as ‘dry assembly’ which means they can be reused for other purposes later on.


4. We are also publishing a guide to the Hackney Wicked festival and would like to have some artist profiles featured. Exploring hidden spaces...

We are looking for alternative, in-depth, creative features.

The paper will be published by See Studios (

If you're interested drop Daren Ellis (daren at seestudios dot com) a line.


The past is the present is the future

Or at least that's what I first thought when I heard the new single by The Horrors. But then I thought, why not just relax and enjoy it? I mean, Battles are taking care of the futurenow stuff for us.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bernard Butler: Why music matters

Following on from last week's Suede reverie and revelry, some lovely musings on music from Bernard Butler, in a film made by @bigbigtoe, archibald ingall stretton's digital wonderboy in chief.


Welcome Malachite and Asturias

First night at home 2

Who arrived last night. Malachite, the tabby, is Mr Curious at the moment, even though he's a bit scared when it comes to jumping down off things; his sister Asturias is far more fearless, but is as cool as you like.

Our thanks to Celia Hammond too, who we adopted these two from. They're always looking for people to foster and adopt their rescue animals. If you can help out, do drop them a line.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Commercial: What if Saatchi & Saatchi had bought Midland Bank?

Prompted by this story in the London Evening Standard last week, which in turn reminded us that Maurice Saatchi can generally be found behind some intriguing ideas – and who wouldn’t want to own a piece of Fred the Shred’s former kingdom? – I’d like to suggest an idle diversion, or perhaps an abstract for a short piece of counterfactual history.

It’s generally accepted that Saatchi & Saatchi’s bid for Midland Bank in 1987 was the beginning of the end, deadly imperial over-reach, hubris on Charlotte Street.

Sure, sure – apart from the fact that most of the people saying that were the people who had most to lose from a change to the status quo in The City. You know, the same geniuses who led us into the worst financial crisis since the Depression.

Here’s the thesis: if Saatchi & Saatchi had succeeded in buying Midland, we wouldn’t have had the financial crisis.

Unlikely? Hear me out.

A Midland bank, at the time the 4th largest bank in Britain, owned by an ad agency would have been forced to become far more customer-centric. So far, so common sense. But I’d go farther and suggest that, as part of that, there would have been a far slower rush into business areas which were more innovative – which in the financial world appears to be synonymous for ‘opaque’ and ‘impossible for outsiders to understand’.

Because there would have been a far greater concern for reputational risk. Because the questions, ‘What are we doing? How are we doing it? Why are we doing? And can we explain it to the outside world?’ would have been asked a lot sooner.

Basically, it wouldn’t have been the quants running the institution. It would have been the marketers. And by having people in charge who would act like faux-naifs, and worry about how it would look if the bank was caught with its pants down, I’d argue that a lot of excess would have been curbed, or at least slowed.

I’d go further and argue that a focus on customers would have meant that Midland became more successful, and in turn its success would have attracted other non-traditional players into the financial services market. With more and more new entrants with a non-banking background coming in, this virtuous focus on serving people with utility financial services would have spread, to the point at which any dangerously risky behaviour would have been very easily isolated and ring-fenced.

Oh sure, this is balloon-floating of the highest order, but as exercises in virtual history go, hypothesising alternative modes for the development of both banks, and ad agencies, would seem to be a useful thing to do from time to time.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Teenage dreams so hard to beat

I was ready to mock - how could you not be? - the thirty- and forty-somethings singing 'So Young...' back to a man who has no right - no right I tell you! - to be as thin as he is at the age he is.

But, as it turns out, nostalgia is clearly the one drug we, collectively, cannot kick, and I was swept away along with everyone else, and have no voice because of it; and singing the songs of your teenage years with a couple of thousand other people holding back the future is a very good way to forget about the fact that, according to Simon Reynolds we're stuck in an infinite loop of yesterday, the avant garde to tomorrow as well-traversed as a hard shoulder.

If I were David Hepworth, I'd make some deeper, sociological point now. Alas, I can't do that, so instead I'll promise to buy The Wire later.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Commercial: Did somebody say redesign?

...which does rather make you wonder, 'why bother with that re-brand?'

It also reminds me of Abi's fundamental (and still-never-bettered) critique, highlighting the limits of branding:

You walk into a bar or pub:

YOU: Can I have a Coke please?
YOU: Yeah, fine.

Of course, if anyone actually knows of anyone who has walked out of a drinks-serving establishment, because they didn't have their brown-gloop beverage of choice, do let me know...

(HT for the image: Rory Maxwell, via Where is the cool)


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Commercial: Faber Academy at Kettle's Yard

My amigos from the Faber Academy, as well as Daljit Nagra and Jo Shapcott, will be reading in aid of the Kettle's Yard Gallery this coming Friday, May 20, at the Brompton Garage, which is opposite the V&A (no 19 on the map). Things kick off at 6.30pm, with readings starting at 7pm.

Alas I won't be there apart from in spirit. But show your support for the team anyway. And there's plenty more events in the Kettle's Yard development appeal if you fancy.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Three notes on creativity

So on Saturday, I was to be found perambulating around the city, on the School of Life's 'Eureka Tour of London'.

Naturally, I can't do full justice to the breadth and the sweep of the day, but here are a couple of things that stand out.

One is that there is no one model of creativity to follow. Our walk leader Cathy ran through four approaches that you could take, all linked by where we had met, the terrace by Gordon's wine bar:

a) The 'doomed romantic / breakdown' model - as evidenced here by Rudyard Kipling, who lived above Gordon's when it was a sausage shop. He wrote his first novel 'The Light That Failed' there, a bildungsroman if ever there was one, about the woman he had been engaged too; he, alas, couldn't seem to deal with the concept that she had moved on from him, wrote the novel as revenge, and promptly had a breakdown once done.

b) The 'flaneur / moment of inspiration' model - hello Yeats and 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree', which was prompted by seeing a soda fountain on the Strand and being transported back to his youth.

c) The 'additive / keep grinding on' model - as shown by Joseph Bazalgette and his taming of London's big stink and conquering of the sewers. In one sense of course, it's a truism - building on what's gone before is sorta how civil engineering works - but one of the themes of the day was that a building or a bridge or a drain is as much an act of creativity as a sonnet.

d) The 'exaggeration / myth-making' model - as practised, supposedly, by a ticket inspector at Charing Cross underground station in the 1970s, who used to delight in telling people that the Cross outside the station was actually the spire of a long-lost cathedral on the site. Which just confirms that, as ever, lying is a pretty good way of getting to something 'true'.

Later in the day found us back at the School itself, listening to Jean-Paul Flintoff pointing out that it is a lot easier to change the world than you might think. Oh, and that, if you want to be happy:

hedonism > flow within a creative act > doing a good turn

Jean-Paul then showed us how to make our own sketch or notebooks, and in my very ramshackle effort, I tried to summarise the day. The title was inevitably:

A manifesto of sorts

1. Walk

2. You don't have to have a breakdown

3. Being dandy is good

4. Adding to what's gone before is better

5. Magic can be democratic

6. Context is a lot - but not everything

7. You need to leave gaps for the light to get in

8. The idea needs to find its time

9. Resolve to serve no more

10. You can change the world now

Which aren't bad as a set of maxims go.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Commercial: More competition for agencies

Just wanted to draw your attention to Emily Bell's column from t'other day, and in particular this bit, which says:

The Houston Chronicle for example, has switched its attention in one sector from big retailers to small businesses and instead of advertising alone, offers a flat rate consultancy service which addresses everything from ad sales to social media presence for its clients.

Hullo. That sounds very much to me like newspapers are getting into what might once have been considered agency-turf.

Look to your laurels etc etc; more pertinently, when 'expertise' can be found everywhere, where do you get knowledge and wisdom from?


Monday, May 02, 2011

Commercial: Mitya Ganopolsky

Mitya (or Dimitry) is a St Petersberg-based art director, photographer and film-maker, who I met last week, while he was leading a walking tour round the city.

Doing that sort of stuff keeps him in clover, while he does his other stuff. Which is very good indeed. I particularly like his reportage, while his fashion shoots show he has a very keen eye, and lean narrative style.

If you're in Russia, I'd strongly recommend you use him. Hell, wherever you are, I strongly recommend you use him. My favourite find of the trip.