At war with Aussie muppets

Martin Brown observes a campaign in crisis

Martin Brown


It won’t come as news to Idealog readers that creativity is the most important function of the advertising industry. So enough about creativity already—let’s talk about leadership.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some inspirational creative leaders. The sort of people who don’t have meetings about having meetings. The sort of people who have an idea and just do everything they possibly can to get it to bloody happen yesterday. In doing so, they inspire and fire up everyone around them, and things happen. Quickly. Now.

New Zealand is blessed in that there are quite a few of these leaders in our ideas industry. More than our fair share actually—people like Andrew Stone, Nick Baylis, Pete Moore, Paul Catmur, Mike O’Sullivan, David Walden, Richard Maddocks, Geoff Ross, Marty O’Halloran, Kim Thorp, Ollie Maisey, Roger MacDonnell, DNW, Mike Hutcheson and many others. As John Clarke (let’s give him an Order of NZ immediately; Helen didn’t give any away at Xmas and Lange’s is available) once wrote, “We don’t know how lucky we are, to live in New Zealand, we don’t know how lucky we are.” Especially given some of those names are really from Norf London, Sowf London, Dublin, Newcastle, Melbourne, Sydney and, in at least one case, a planet Hubble has yet to get a clear shot of.

I was pretty confident that I had this under control—how wrong could I be?

Fortunately for the local creative industry, these creative leaders choose to walk amongst us and inspire the many talented people living and thinking here.

This is an example of what I mean. IMHO, it’s the best email ever written by a ‘suit’ which is why I kept it and why I refer to it often when I’m feeling a little powerless. Yes, it was written by one of those people. Try to guess who.

The best suit email ever written.

The context: the night before a big shoot, the huge multinational-brand Aussie clients decide they want to delay indefinitely but of course they don’t want to pay 100% of the TV shoot cost to do this. Not only that, but after a six-hour pre-production, they want to completely change the script as well. That’s Aussie clients for you. They’re mostly Muppets. That’s why their creativity overall is so safe and dull and ineffectual. But that’s another story. Let’s read our mail.

I spent over two hours on a call with [the Aussie client] and I was pretty confident that I had this under control—how wrong could I be.

A, you will be pleased to hear that I refrained from replying to this when I opened it tonight.

Anyway, here is what we need to do:

  1. We need a product script based on the new brief on their desks at 8.30am Aussie time. T, M and M we need to talk on this right away in the morning
  2. I need to get mpgs of the girls, the loser, the hero and probably a back up of these two if we have them to them by 8.30 in the morning. T/L can you liaise with K and sort this. This will include re-shooting ML and getting it transferred.
  3. I need to get as many missing elements of the talent and locations in jpg format on their desk at 8.30—namely the second girl—jpg was blank, The brand ad fight location, the bathroom guys—J can you sort this—give K a call to source
  4. We need a shooting story-board if possible by the end of the day and the full noise treatment and then a list of questions we have for them in terms of foams, length of the guys stubble and any other dumb fuck thing we can second guess that might be an issue for them—T, M and M can I leave this with you
  5. I want anything and everything else that is related to pre-prod that we have done ready to get to them by 8.30 am—including Facts/Tvcab approvals, a non-negotiated but initiated by us talent options on international—usual/guestimate %s are fine at this point in time and whatever else we have done
  6. I need a detailed list of all elements outstanding—from how we will brush S’s hair to what colour his undies are to show them that there is nothing left to discuss—M/K can you pull this together—again I ideally want this for Aussie 8.30am
  7. I will call [client] and tell him that I can not believe this shit and he needs to sort it now.
  8. I will pull together all the correspondence sent to them on the approval from F and the subsequent correspondence sent to them
  9. J, assuming we delay by five weeks and we need three weeks production, can you firstly tell me the canx fee for the first weeks of airtime booked and secondly how significant the TARPs are affected by moving later in the year and how much additional $ it will cost to keep the same schedule but moved to start on W/C 5 September
  10. M, I need to get a full reconciliation of the costs incurred to date to send to them and we should be absolutely up-front and honest on this—then you and I need to talk.
  11. M and T, they raised three areas in the quote that they have asked for further clarification on—i.e. that seems like a lot, the three of us need to chat about this and sort it—pretty easy really
    a) Music/sound sum seems like a lot?
    b) What does the cost for video and audio post cover?
    c) Lead Talent cost, 3 x stunties cost and loser/girls cost
  12. K, can we get a revised schedule based on you completing the next job and then coming back to do this one
  13. Very and I mean very roughly can everyone on creative, production and account service side list their 20 biggest brands worked on, the 20 biggest shoots worked on and if comfortable a num of days shooting and budget plus the total number of shoots they have been involved in—I want to make their perception that they are the Film Company/Director or whatever seem utterly absurd and ridiculous and they never again consider telling us how to shoot TVCs

Ladies and Gentlemen we are at war—they just don’t know it yet!

We will make these ads and we will make them on our current schedule.

I will not let them just pathetically wriggle out of this because they have been slack, because it suits them, because its easier, because they want to go home at 5, because they can’t make a decision on the colour of M’s undies, by delaying it.

We will behave professionally and graciously, we will show them that the work is done and that there is no reason for concern, we will show them how real advertising agencies and Film Cos operate and that five days in advertising equates to about four years worth of work in their miserable dead end jobs.

The ads will be great and when they are made and approved and they have paid their bills and they are prancing around taking all the credit I promise you all that I will personally work over each and every one of them over so badly they will wish that they had never been born

Any fucking questions my phone will be on

And remember—There can only be one!

Good, eh? Wouldn’t you like to work in the same room as someone like that?

At home I have a picture that was painted in 1996 by Jo Lysaght, a young Wellington art director, which I also look at a lot when I’m feeling dumb. Running around the outside of a Leunig-like illustration is the quote from a certain Arnold H Glasow which reads: “Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”

Ladies and gentlemen we are at war—they just don’t know it yet!

Or make sure you get to work with someone who always carries a blowtorch.

Footnote: Well, we made the ad, banked a big cheque and, when it cleared, promptly fired the client.

Life’s too short to waste time on negative dipshits.

Martin Brown does a number of things including thinking up stuff at DDB


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