Brutally accurate media placement.

Dan Francis: an apology (of sorts).

I helped create the Halfords idents that accompany this Year’s Tour de France coverage on ITV4.

Having put 3 months of hard work into them – and the attendant documentary – I’m keen to see how they’re received. The web is of course the first place to look.

Not everyone likes everything and Twitter is an ideal platform for naysayers to vent their spleen. A handful of viewers don’t like the idents at all. To be fair, much of this was down to repetition – if you’re watching 3 hours of cycling, you’re going to see the same one more than once. Unless it’s supremely bland – and many other idents are – repetition will grate specially for an event that gets 5 hours coverage a day for 3 weeks.

Some people just don’t like Dan Francis – in the idents at least. It’s interesting that people are won over when they see the full documentary here:

It’s a strange one. At no point during the production did we think, “God, he’s so annoying, what are we gonna do?” It just didn’t occur to us. He was the perfect casting. He’s not an actor. We had the Tour de Francis idea first and cast specifically for someone with Frank or Francis in their name.

We wanted to represent the everyman – the chap holding down a day job, with a family and a genuine love of cycling. We wanted to show what happens when we challenge someone to take their cycling up a level, out of their comfort zone and emulate their heroes to some extent.

Dan, ambushed by a Frenchman talking French, of all things.

And we wanted to prove that a sub-£1000 Carrera Virago wouldn’t fall apart the minute you took it out on the road.

If you want to torture test a bike and the client is sponsoring the Tour de France, tackling some of its key stages makes perfect sense.

The truth is, we had one puncture on the flat (by the big wind turbines on Stage 6). Other than that, nothing snapped, sheered or failed.

Now, you can buy much better bikes if you can afford it and for many, many people, £1000 for any bike is just out if the question, so clearly we can’t please everyone.

But if you want to give non-cyclists an insight into why you ride or just enjoy a fellow enthusiast being given the chance to live the TdF dream, you could do worse than watch the documentary.

I promise you, he’s not as irritating as the idents might portray him.

As for the apology, it’s really directed at Dan. If we made you look annoying and prompt people to put their TV screen through, I am sorry. It wasn’t our intention or indeed our impression having watched them back – many more times than any viewers will ever see!

Tour de Francis

Once I tried to sell on the idea of the Stevenage Grand Prix using the Vodafone / Lewis Hamilton connection.

It got costed up and everything (£500,000 including policing) but in the end it didn’t happen.

So here’s something I DID manage to get off the ground – this time for Halfords.

They’re sponsoring ITV’s coverage of the 2012 Tour de France and wanted to hero their £1000 carbon fibre bike, the Carrera Virago.

We proposed the Tour de Francis. Get a bloke with Francis in his name and get him to ride some of the key stages of Le Tour on the Virago.

So that’s what we did. Across 6 days, Dan Francis rode through Liege in Belgium, the Champagne region, the French Alps and crossed the finish line in Paris.

We cut a 15-minute film documenting his journey and took short clips from it to create the idents that accompany the TV coverage going in and out of the ad breaks – 24 in total to cover 3 weeks of racing.

Take a look. It’s quite unlike anything Halfords has ever done before. Hopefully it shows the Tour through the lens of an amateur overcoming his own challenges and getting an insight into what it must be like for the pros.

If you don’t have 15 minutes, here’s the trailer:

And how did the bike cope? Total repairs: one puncture. We had 2 spare bikes with us on tour, both redundant in the end.

If you’re curious enough about the behind the scenes stuff, you can take a look here: http://tourdefrancis.tumblr.com/

And I can heartily recommend the Halfords Cycling Facebook page for coverage of Le Tour and all things cycling.

Barclaycard: When Amy Childs met Brian Blessed

Well they never actually met, but we did combine their talents in the same project.

You see, in between parking in Stevenage and returning in the evening, I go to work – I don’t just commute just so I can blog about it.

And at work, I make adverts – mostly the sort that go on the internet and generally get in the way of what you wanted to do in the first place. And now I can proudly reveal the latest thing-what-I-done for you here. It’s for Barclaycard. It’s to mark the release of their new mobile contactless technology. You see, now you can pay for stuff just by swiping your mobile phone – if you have the right phone and a Barclaycard account. Cool? Yes.

So, given that this is such a massive step-change in the way we pay for things, we thought that now might be a good time to take stock and take a look at how paying has evolved over the years, starting with cavemen, via Vikings, Romans and Georgians and ending up in the present day in Chiswick High Road.

If you like pigs, fur, dinosaur milk, shoes, The Only Way Is Essex, Brian Blessed, the bloke off the Sky TV ad, another bloke off the trainline.com ads, wigs, man-bags, Norse washing up liquid, guyliner, tridents and Horrible Histories (Dominic Brigstocke directs that and this), then this is for you. What’s not to like?

PS. This is the long version, featuring the ‘lost’ Viking scene. Kind of exclusive.

The Maria Sharapova bruise.

Every so often, life can take an unexpected turn. Suddenly you’re no longer sitting at your desk under harsh strip-lighting, you’re on a tennis court in LA waiting for Maria Sharapova to arrive so she can hit tennis balls at you – you know how it is.



How did this come to pass? One of our clients is Sony Ericsson. We’re very busy doing lots of lovely advertising for them and Maria is one of their ‘Brand Ambassadors’.

Some fashion shoot had been cancelled at the last minute and given that the whole tennis tour season kicks off very soon, this was Sony Ericsson’s last chance to make use of her time – 90 minutes of it to be exact.

So in very short order we were briefed and quickly narrowed down our best ideas to 3 we thought would be acceptable to Maria and ‘her people’ (they always have people – I don’t, maybe I’m doing something wrong).

That was quickly whittled down to the one idea that was sold in and in no time at all I was one of an elite team of admen sitting in Economy heading to LA.

What you see here is the result. Maria was a delight and extremely accommodating, signing my daughter’s tennis racket cover and giving me 2 kisses – probably out of guilt for the physical damage she’d caused me.

image

Exhibit A

Sony Ericsson: Breakdelics – “Da Phunk”

Here’s a music promo that was the culmination of a long campaign to promote the Xperia mini and mini pro. Both these phones have diddy little touchscreens and the TV campaign used the idea of fingers dancing across the screen to get that point across.

They found a YouTube fingerdancing legend from Israel and her fingers featured in the TV ads. We then challenged the public send us their fingerdancing videos and take part in Battle Fingers on YouTube. The winner was a Spanish guy called Elian and his prize was to star in the music video to the song that accompanied the TV commercial. Got all that?

It was shot in 2 days in a studio in Stockwell. We didn’t to Brooklyn or the Bronx at all. Amazing!

Here’s the entry I did with my son – as I worked on the project I wasn’t eligible to win anything but as you’ll see, ours was definitely the best…

Dave Bloke, Wembley Legend.

It’s happened again; I’ve done another thing. Regular readers/colleagues will know that I work on the English FA’s advertising account (among others).

So, they have this 5-a-side competition called FA Umbros Fives (yes, with Umbro). It turns out this is the only 5-a-side competition with a Wembley final. So even if your dreams of playing regular Premiership football have faded, if you’re a bit good at 5-a-side there’s still a chance to walk out of that tunnel and onto the hallowed (and admittedly controversial) Wembley turf. In short, you, YES YOU, could become a Wembley Legend.

And don’t just take my word for it. Witness a man who was once mortal like us. Witness a man living the dream. Witness Dave Bloke, Wembley Legend.

And then sign your team up!

Bit of background: all shot at Wembley in a day. Yes, even the kitchen, bedroom, recording studio scenes. Judicious use of various props, changing rooms and meeting rooms in and around the stadium, we managed to re-create Bloke-mania in a few short hours.

Unfortunately I was away on holiday on the day of the shoot, so I missed the chance to meet Michael Owen and Tim Lovejoy. Michael was by all accounts a real gent and Tim smells very nice. I did float the idea of my flying back from holiday just for the day (under the guise of someone else’s stupid idea) but my wife called my bluff and agreed it was an incredibly stupid idea…

And the music? “Widths and Heights” by Magic Arm.

Mysterious dirty hand.

No mystery as to whose hand this is. It’s mine. It’s at the end of my left arm where it’s always been, so that part isn’t the mystery. But where did the dirt come from?

I arrived in work just like any other day. But then a colleague said, “What happened to your hand?”

I said, “Nothing.” But then looking at it, I was astonished to see it covered in an odourless black mark.

How?

I was at a loss to explain and still am. I’d been no further than 2 feet away from my left hand throughout the morning. Where had it been to have been sullied without my noticing. To this day (which is the day after it happened) it remains a complete mystery to everyone involved. Yes, both of us.

Spooky.

Share

Believe in England!

World Cup fever is upon us whether you like it or not.

And you know what, England has a chance. We’re still in it (admittedly it hasn’t started yet) so who’s to say it couldn’t happen?

One of my clients is the English FA. They asked us to come up with an idea for Facebook that would help get the fans behind England for the World Cup and show the fans’ support to the players.

So we came up with this idea: We are all part of the official England squad, players and fans together. The players have 1 to 23 on their shirts and now the fans can have their own unique squad number too. It’s like we’re lining up for the national anthem alongside the team (except that wouldn’t be entirely practical).

Stephen Fry has no.30, Jonathan Ross is 28 and Nick Clegg is 67.

250,000 now and rising!

So if you go to http://apps.facebook.com/englandteam/ and click Create Your Shirt, you can select a red or white shirt, choose the name you want across the back and then you’ll get your official squad number on your shirt which you can then use as your profile picture to show your support for England.

It’s the tasteful online equivalent of decking your car/home/face/kids/pets with St George’s flags.

One week on and we’re already up to 166,000 which is phenomenal (he says modestly).

The target is 1 million though. Can we do it? Maybe you can help. Where else can you rub shoulders with JLS, Heston Blumenthal and Dame Kelly Holmes?

Doing justice justice.

I recently completed 2 weeks’ jury service. It’s fascinating stuff. A colleague was on a jury for a murder trial not so long ago and he gave me some good pointers on what to expect.

I was selected for the jury on a very grim trial – about as grim as it gets – but fortunately the defendant entered a guilty plea just as the trial was going to start. Phew – I hadn’t brought any tissues.

The next trial I was on was a very petty incident that had spiralled out of control. For all the ‘he said, she said’ trivial nature of the case it was incredibly interesting sitting there trying to establish the facts and tell the lies from the truth.  Undoubtedly plenty of people on the stand were lying through their teeth – very convincingly at times. I’m just not used to being lied to.

I would have been Alex James in this instance.

Anyway, if you’re picked for jury service it can come at an awkward time and your employer may not welcome it with open arms (though mine was very good about it) but you should definitely do it. If you do, here’s what to expect:

1. Wait. Then wait some more. Take a book, there’s a lot of waiting around. If you haven’t yet been picked for a jury, you could spend the best part of a week waiting for a case. Take a book. Earphones can be bad as you might miss your name being called out.

2. Ask questions. You can’t actually put questions to the defendant or witnesses directly but you can write ’em down, hand them to the court usher and they’ll pass it on to the judge. They’ll read the note and decide whether or not to put them to the court. Just don’t leave it too late. Once both sides have done their speeches and the judge has summed up, no new evidence is allowed, so don’t leave it until you all go away to start deliberating. You’ll have missed the boat.

I had about 10 questions which I ran past the rest of the jury. They all said, “Ask away” and after that it opened the floodgates so that most of the jury did the same. Hell, we can all play Columbo once can’t we?

3. Be open and friendly with the other jurors. The chances are nobody else on your jury has ever done this before. You’re all noobs. The judge must get sick of having to explain what’s happening to all these new joiners ALL the time.

4. When deliberating, try playing devil’s advocate from both sides – polar opposite sides. What if everything the defence said was true? What if everything the prosecution said was true? Which is easier to defend or believe? It really helped our jury. We needed a unanimous verdict. We had 10 on one side, one on the other and one undecided. When we tried to see things from the opposite point of view we quickly reached a consensus.

5. Drink it all in. Chances are you won’t get a second opportunity. It’s fascinating. People’s lives hang (though not literally any more) on your decisions. That’s real power!

%d bloggers like this: