YOU'RE INVITED TO "THE EYE BALL" (Bring your own glasses)

The best thing about being a freelance copywriter (no, it's not the sacks of cash) is the variety of assignments.  If it's not a brand guide, manifesto, or digital campaign it's a video featuring a short-sighted optical instruments heiress, a dodgy butler, and a cast of 50 hunting hounds, a.k.a. “The Eye Ball”.  Created for Georgetown Optician by Pum Lefebure and the amazing Design Army team, “The Eye Ball” is the sequel to the award-winning “Our Family Knows Glasses” (also scripted by me), and elaborates on the already elaborate story of the company’s optically obsessed owners.  Adweek raves, “It’s even more bizarre than the original”.  Thanks, I think. 

Credits:

Agency: Design Army

Chief Creative Officer & Creative Director: Pum Lefebure

CEO: Jake Lefebure

Director & Cinematographer: Dean Alexandeer

Senior Designer: Lillian Ling

Editor: David Grossbach

Copywriter: Mark Welsh

IF EVERYONE'S A CREATIVE DIRECTOR, WHO'S DOING THE DISHES?

By Mark Welsh

I was doing a spot of low-impact networking this week when an embryo walked up to me and gave me his business card. Though he was barely old enough to walk or talk - let alone drink - his card read, "Creative Director". Perhaps the curl of my lip gave me away, but he gathered I wasn't all that impressed and shuffled sullenly back into his stroller.   

Back when I was a slip of a copywriter with little more than an afro and a spare typewriter ribbon, the words "Creative Director" instilled equal measures admiration, envy, respect, and fear. Backed by decades of experience, great taste, and the ability to inspire a motley crue of hungover copywriters and art directors, they were brilliant talents and equally great characters.  Think Don Draper, minus the brooding. 

During my Ogilvy days my favorites included an Englishman with a lustrous flop of silver hair who wore custom-made silk dentist-shirts;  an intimidating lesbian straight out of an Otto Dix painting who compulsively applied lip gloss every 5 minutes; and (by far my favorite) Ross Sutherland, a fellow New Zealander with great wit who'd accost uptight account executives in crowded elevators and loudly whisper, "Ken, you're a very attractive man. Don't think I didn't notice", just to watch them wince and squirm.

So, in a world where every man and his dogwalker is laying claim to being a Creative Director, what qualities should you look for -in addition to an impressive business card?

 

businesscard

 

A CREATIVE DIRECTOR...

  • INSPIRES GREATNESS. (Or at least very good-ness)   
  • MINES GLIMMERING NUGGETS OF BRILLIANCE.  And helps finesse and polish them to perfection.  
  • STICKS TO THE PLOT.  Especially when others wheel wildly off it.  
  • KNOWS A GOOD IDEA when he/she "adapts" one.
  • CUTS OFF THE BEER AND WINE before the late night thinking goes south
  • IS WITHHOLDING WITH PRAISE.  Until it's deserved; a mindblowing concept in 2014.  
  • MAKES IT LOOK INCREDIBLY EASY

P.S. I clawed my way to Ogilvy CD status at the ripe age of 33, but after years wasted in focus groups I returned to what I love most; copywriting, developing brand voices, and typing 'til my fingers are raw.  

Feel free to drop me a line to see how we might work together. 

LAZY, INDIFFERENT, OR JUST FRENCH? NEW AIR FRANCE ADS.

By Mark Welsh

WHEN I BEGAN AS A COPYWRITER AT OGILVY AND MATHER, THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS ASIAN MODELS. This was Australia in the early '80's, so there was no such thing as black models either.  Fast forward 30 years to the behemoth economy that is China, and suddenly it's a whole new kettle of bibimbap.  Blessed with faces that both reflect and hypnotize the world's fastest growing luxury market, Asian models are now raking in the yen, yuan and (hard won) won*.  They're so omnipresent that you can't swing a cat at Milk Studios without hitting Liu Wen or Tao Okamoto.  Which makes the casting choices in the new Air France ad campaign even more dumbfoundingly dumb. 

Riffing on the travel poster style of the 30's, each ad depicts different models styled to represent Air France destinations; a stoned blonde for San Francisco...a Botticelli-style temptress for Italy...an African American in dazzling sequins for New York...

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...and then suddenly - like the food poisoning one gets from eating Duane Reade sushi - two white girls appear, be-wigged and made up to represent Tokyo and Peking.  

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My liver-spotted Scottish granny looks more Asian than this, and she's been dead for 20 years.  

Qu'est-ce que cela, Air France?  Was Du Juan already booked?  Had Fei Fei Sun gotten hit by the Avian flu? Did the harried Creative Director at Air France's ad agency say, "We don't have the budget for another girl; just slap some Asian makeup and a wig on those Ukrainian chicks".  Probably.  

Call me literal, call me pedantic, or just call me to ensure such glaring faux pas don't occur in your advertising, catalogs, or brand books. 

*South Korean won only.  

RESILIENT? CANNY? WILDLY ATTRACTIVE? YOU MIGHT BE A NEW ZEALANDER.

By Mark Welsh

New Zealand's geographical remoteness has made Kiwis an inventive, resilient, canny, and most of all, highly attractive lot. (Did I mention that I'm one?). I've called New York city home for 30 years, but my dark heart still swells with pride whenever a Kiwi triumphs over the country's incovenient location, just left of the earth's sink hole. Lorde winning a Grammy for song of the year.  Dame Kiri te Kanawa discussing claret with Lord Grantham in a Downton Abbey cameo.  The few halcyon days when Team New Zealand looked like they were going to take home the America's Cup. (Let's not revisit that particular pain).  Add to this much abbreviated list of super-achieving Kiwis the inventive, canny, resilient, and yes, highly attractive fashion designer, KAREN WALKER (below left). Her label shows each season at New York fashion week but she runs her global empire from the relative sanity and safety of New Zealand.

No fool in the marketing department, Ms. Walker's ad campaigns stand out for all the right reasons, combining arresting portraits of unexpected models with socially relevant messages. Eschewing younger (and no doubt more expensive) models, the brand's 2013 eyewear campaign featured portraits by Advanced Style blogger Ari Seth Cohen of (really) Grande Dames wearing (really) fabulous eyewear.  Despite the difference in our genders, and to a lesser extent our ages, I wanted a pair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For spring 2014, the brand partnered with the United Nations' ETHICAL FASHION INITIATIVE to make screen-printed pouches for eyeglasses. (EFI creates and supports the work of artisan groups in Kenya). To help raise EFI's visibility Ms. Walker made (another) synchronistic modeling choice, turning the spotlight on the Kenyan artisans who cut, sewed, and screen-printed her eyeglass pouches and enlisting them as the campaign's models.  

Photography: DEREK HENDERSON. (And yes, he's also a Kiwi).

WHO WORE IT BEST?

Is it coincidence that New York Fashion Week and The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show occur at the same time every year?  Or is it a ploy hatched by fashion's pack of nomadic hairdressers to do a bit of double dipping while they're in town?  The man braids at Hood By Air sure looked like the dreadlocked mops on the Hungarian Komondors at Westminster. The back combed coifs at Ruffian were just like looking in a mirror - if you were a white Standard Poodle.  And the white poufs at Thom Browne certainly owed a debt to the ratted up fur of Westminster's winning Bichon Frise.  Or was it the other way round? 

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BICHON FRISE (above).  THOM BROWNE (below)

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COCKER SPANIEL (above).  COCKY MODEL (below)

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KOMONDOR (above).  HOOD BY AIR (below)

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STANDARD POODLE (above).  RUFFIAN (below)

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CURRY WITH YOUR COMMES DES GARCONS?

When Dover Street Market, the conceptual retail store in London announced the opening of a New York outpost in my gritty neighborhood, I almost fell off my pouf.  Why would Rei Kawakubo, the visionary Dover Street and Commes des Garcons designer open shop in a neighborhood the New York Times recently deemed "Manhattan's least fashionable"?


Did she find the mix of sari shops, curry restaurants, and Pakistani cab drivers irresistible?  Was the proximity to Kalustyans, the middle eastern spice shop on 28th and Lex, too alluring to pass up?  Or had she cannily anticipated that the mentally deranged inmates at nearby Bellevue hospital were the only ones willing to drop 10G on a Spring 2014 Commes des Garcons hula-hoop dress?

I suspect that while the bizarre location (and mentally deranged neighbors) appealed to the inscrutable Ms. Kawakubo, it was the gorgeous buliding that sealed the deal.  A grand neo-classical style structure from 1909, the marble columned beauty was - apropos enough - the home to the school of Applied Design for women.

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The reimagined interior with its central glass elevator is stunning, and the seven floors of (ruthlessly edited) Commes des Garcons, Alaia, Prada, Junya Watanabe etc. is the stuff fashion freaks lose their marbles over.  

And the green tea cake at the store's Rose Bakery sure beats the pants off the dubious shrink wrapped banana cake at the local Korean market.  
So, does the arrival of Dover Street Market signal the beginning of Curry Hill's great gentrification? Local retailers including Curry in a Hurry, Momokawa japanese restaurant (incredible shabu shabu), and an early morning hooker idling outside Little Michael deli on Lex, all report a slight uptick in business.  Though "Young Choice Nails", perhaps the filthiest nail salon in the city, said that business was slow - as usual. 
 

a tempest over a tusk

Top model, Angela Lindvall, was caught red-handed at Nairobi airport recently with an elephant tusk tucked into her luggage.  When asked how it came into her posession, the high-cheek boned beauty, explained, "I was holding onto it to keep my balance during a shoot, and the elephant sneezed and then believe it or not the just just fell off.  It was a classic case of Finders Keepers."  Officials chose not to believe it, and sentenced her to 24 hours community service, cleaning out the elephant cage at the Nairobi zoo.  Hurry Home, Angela. 

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