By Mark Welsh

No offense to most brand voices but you wouldn’t want to sit next to them at a dinner party.


Bland, monotonous, and frequently drunk, this cacophony of droning dullards suffers from what Doctors call “Generic Voice Syndrome.” Talk about a squandered opportunity to forge a valuable connection with their audiences. They should be flogged and banned from dinner parties for life.
Brand voice is a powerful communicator of a company’s personality.  Done right it slices through the clutter to win hearts and minds. Done wrong it sends everyone rushing for earplugs.  Prefer the winning of hearts and minds strategy? Clear your throat and take my advice on how to...

in 5 tuneful steps



Note: All examples are culled from recent Mark Welsh Creative projects and collaborations.

Despite abundant evidence to the contrary you can’t have a voice without a personality. 
Brands are like people, memorable or forgettable depending on their personality.  Define your key attributes and use these to shape a personality and voice that people like and remember.  
TuneCore is the world’s premium music distribution company. For the global brand guide Mark distilled the brand personality into 5 attributes  

TuneCore global brand guide / attributes .  See more

TuneCore global brand guide / attributes. See more

Look to your own audience for brand voice inspiration, not at your competitors. 
Get to the heart and mind of the matter. Learn what drives and inspires your audience, listen to how they talk, and craft a distinctive voice that actually connects with their dreams and beliefs.  
Mark Welsh Creative developed a voice for TuneCore that mirrors the brand personality (above) and taps into the emotional mindset of independent musicians.

TuneCore / awareness campaign.   See more   Photography  Martin Crook    

TuneCore / awareness campaign.  See more 
Photography Martin Crook

A confident brand voice migrates from platform-to-platform with nary a hiccup or belch.  

Keep your voice consistent across all facets of your communications, from website and manifesto to social media, print, video, and even business cards.  
In collaboration with Design Army, Mark gave the fashion optical company, Georgetown Optician a witty and irreverent voice with strong calls to action.  From the award-winning video campaign to the company's Instagram, website, and print campaigns, the brand combines bold, provocative language and great design to catch the eye and hold it.  

Georgetown Optician / Instagram campaign  Agency Design Army

Georgetown Optician / Instagram campaign
Agency Design Army

Georgetown Optician / website, social media, print Agency Design Army   

Georgetown Optician / website, social media, print
Agency Design Army

Georgetown Optician / Instagram campaign
Agency Design Army

Tone is what makes people like us, or not.
Decide what your brand tone is and isn’t – witty vs. funny, earnest vs. ironic, warm vs. cool - and cement it in your brand guide.  
Net Generation is the USTA’s new youth tennis platform. As part of an initiative to grow tennis at the grass roots level, MWC developed a welcoming, empowering, inclusive, and heroic brand tone that speaks to a broad audience of schools, P.E. providers, and coaches nationwide.

USTA Net Generation / print, website, social media

USTA Net Generation / print, website, social media

5.  SPEAK UP! 
Small company or behemoth brand, use bold, provocative language to catch and hold the eye. 
Cafiero Select is a NYC homeware store and design firm with an ironic, irreverent voice. The company’s marketing comprises social media and e-mail. As guest editor Mark developed a topical and controversial newsletter that offers tips on surviving Apocalyptic times with “Armageddon chic” décor.   

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Screenshot 2017-09-26 12.58.17.png

Mark Welsh is an experienced writer/brand builder who specializes in identity and voice. He has devised distinct brand voices for Jonathan Adler, Bloomingdale’s, Sephora, POPSUGAR, west elm, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many more. 

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. 


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


By Mark Welsh

The latest RH catalog hit New York city last week, and by “hit” I mean mercilessly clobbered. 

Weighing in at hefty 325 pounds (or thereabouts) this unappealingly shrink wrapped collection of 5 “source books” prompted shrieks of “Oh no they didn’t!” at Post Offices from the Battery to the Bronx and filled New York’s emergency rooms with sprained and (even more than usually) disgruntled mail carriers.  Nursing a wrist injury and a grudge, my dedicated mail lady Connie summed up the feelings of many as she tossed letters into slots with the precision of a carnival knife thrower.  “I signed up to deliver mail through sleet, snow, and hail, she huffed.  “No one ever mentioned the  Mother@#$%&^% RH catalog”.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m an ardent fan of catalogs and have written literally hundreds for clients including Bloomingdale’s, Joe Fresh, west elm, and Ann Taylor – a sprinkling of which I’ve included here for purely self-promotional purposes.

But do we really need to receive all 5 at once?  Talk about incite bad will among 99 pound weaklings, 6th floor walk-up dwellers, and trees. 

Without further ado or adon't here are my...



COMMIT THE PERFECT CRIME.  Bludgeon your annoying neighbor with his/her copy – and shred the evidence. 


ASSIST A LITTLE PERSON.  Bind copies together with duct tape to create booster seats, platform shoes, and steps.


STOCK YOUR OFF-THE-GRID OUTHOUSE.  Who needs a composting loo when you’ve got 468 pages of free TP?


GO FOR THE INSURANCE MONEY.  Turn our the lights and “accidentally” trip over your catalog.  You’ll be surprised what a bruised knee and a good lawyer will net you.  (Approximate 30G).


CALM YOUR NERVES.  Paper walls with the catalog’s greige, ecru, and burlap-hued pages and fall instantly into deep taupe sleep. 


TAKE A FIELD TRIP.  Introduce your catalogs to their ancient tree forebears and watch them weep inky tears. 


RETURN TO SENDER UNOPENED.  Or better yet, drop it off at your local RH store and let them deal with it. 


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?





  • 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.  

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. 


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 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.  


By Mark Welsh

After 30 years subverting language for craven commercial purposes I'm hardly qualified to get all "Grandma Grammar" on anyone's ass about what's proper and what's not.  But an overused abbreviation is ambitiously sweeping the world right now, and none of our dangling participles are safe.  It goes by the name of "ampersand". You may know it by its street tag:

 The ampersand has been prancing about in brandbooks & catalogs & advertising a lot of late, sucking in it's prosperous belly and masquerading as the exact equivalent of and - which it isn't and never will be, no matter how seductively it loops and swoops.  And should be used in the majority of cases, while & should be used in just a few (see below).  & just because it's quicker to write & than and, doesn't mean it's okay to interchange them willy nilly like no-one will notice.  I noticed, and i've been grinding my teeth in my sleep about it for months.  Thanks a lot &.  

Herewith, hereby, and heretofore, the rules and regulations of AND vs. & (that no one ever asked for). 



& is appropriate in business names, like "Rich & Honest Bank" or "Grammar & Grandpa's proofreading"

& is okay when space is limited; e.g. long lists and tiny disclaimer text that no one ever reads anyway

& is used to indicate a closer collaboration than and in film credits for stories and screenplays, etc. 

And & is made for beautiful logos in a way that and sadly is not.

Stay tuned for next week's rant about the exclamation mark: Overused or merely misunderstood?!!!!!


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).


I'm a huge fan of titles.  Not the hoity toity Downton Abbey type title (though "His Excellency The Right Honorable Lord Welsh" has a nice ring to it), but titles that fade up on screen. You can't be a lazy viewer when titles are involved.  At the risk of getting chapped lips, they implore you to read them - or lose the plot.

When I first saw Director Wes Anderson's masterful use of titles in "The Royal Tennenbaums" I was smitten.  So you can imagine my delight when Creative Director and fellow title lover, Pum Lefebure at Design Army, invited me to create a story using titles for a swimsuit video she'd shot for designer, Karla Colletto (below) 




P.S. In addition to looking gorgeous, the multi-talented model Zinta juggles, contorts, and rides a monocycle, tricks she picked up in the Russian circus.

The art of creating desire, by Tom Ford

The only thing I clearly remember from the blur that was Fashion week is “the black silk pantsuit” in Tom Ford’s blindingly well orchestrated show on Tuesday.   And I haven’t even seen it. 

After a six year absence from the field, Mr. Ford catapulted himself back to the top by employing one of the oldest marketing tricks in the book.  In a week of instant, constant, unremitting access he did the unthinkable and the brilliant.  He withheld all photos, relying instead on descriptions (i.e. words) alone to give each outfit magic.  God love him.  By denying entrance to all but house photographer, Terry Richardson, Mr Ford not only created the most talked about, least seen show of the week (only 130 guests were invited), he also taught every marketer and his Mother (that’d be me) a deft lesson in how to create desire. No doubt every outfit he showed is already spoken for sight unseen.  

Annoyingly the pant suit doesn't come in a 40 long. 

NYT's Cathy Horyn's contraband picture of Beyonce, fresh from the Tom Ford runway.




Mad Men boozers exposed as lightweight novices

 The drinkers on Mad Men are novice boozers compared to the professional alcoholics I worked with at Ogilvy and Mather, Sydney during the early 80's.  In fact I've long suspected the reason I was offered a transfer from Sydney to New York is that I was the only one left standing after lunch.  Getting wasted at lunch was de rigeur in 1981 Sydney  -- extra de riguer on Fridays.  I recall a particular lengthy session at the local Italian joint, Bepe's, with fellow creatives Jenny and Christine.   Those girls drank.  After a bottle of wine and a pack of Camel lights each, they moved onto a few rounds of flaming sambucca - a lethal concoction that sears kidneys and singes eyebrows.  As we wobbled, tottered, swayed and guffawed our way back to the office, Christine suddenly stumbled and fell. I reached out to help her, and instead managed to pull her sweater over her head, thereby exposing her breasts for all North Sydney to see.  Good hearted drunken lass that she was, Christine laughed even harder, pulled her shoes off and wobbled barefoot and topless back to the office.  Now, that's what I call drinking at lunch.






Gloves off

HIDDEN BENEFITS: Hands so satiny soft we can't show them to youI was quietly recuperating from yesterday’s rant about the Britney Spears/Candies ads when I stumbled upon this equally unfathomable celebrity/brand pairing, La Toya Jackson for Dream Cream.  No offense to La Toya... but really?  The randomness of it all is as bewildering as the ad execution.  Would someone mind explaining the logic behind burying the consumer benefit - soft, silky hands - beneath soft, silky gloves?  Call me old school but if I’m paying La Toya Jackson a boat load of cash to pimp my $227 a jar hand cream then at the very least I’d like to see whether her hands are as porcelain perfect as her face. 

Hide the candy


Should Britney's natural knees and "bathing suit bunching" stay or go? Shoe endorser Britney Spears allowed Candies to use highly retouched images of her in their ad campaign - so long as they ran the un-retouched versions too.  Regardless of whether Brit was trying to make a statement for womankind or just pick up a much needed check (discuss) this ad made me feel profoundly queasy. 

Perhaps it’s the original concept or lack thereof: employ a waning chanteuse as a spokesperson, put her into a sickly pink bathing suit and then force the poor girl to pose like a hooker in a full-length mug shot. Perhaps it’s because she looks so desperately sad and shop worn – even in the “AFTER” picture. Or perhaps it's because in their infinite wisdom Candies treated their own shoes as an after thought. Grrrr. 


File this outdoor campaign for Le Tigre under “ads I wish I’d done”.  After no doubt waiting years for the stars to align (and then burn out), Le Tigre jumped on the Tiger Woods’ scandal like a lion on a fallen gazelle (excuse the mangling of wildlife metaphors) and turned it into their personal triumph.  And they did it all without paying him a penny.  I respect, admire and covet the brazenness, the wit and the seemingly selfless pay off, i.e. all profits go to help young people “get on course and stay on course”.  Nicely played, Le Tigre.  

Hey kids, let's pet the lethal stingray!

IT DON'T MEAN A THING IF IT AIN'T GOT THAT STING.The entire ministry of tourism for the Cayman Islands must have been hitting the Ganja pipe pretty hard last year when Steve Irwin’s sudden death by stingray barb hit the news.  How else to explain this hysterically inappropriate ad?  Did they actually think people wouldn’t connect the stingray in this ad with the one that stabbed and killed the much beloved Crocodile Hunter?    

As if that weren’t deterrent enough, both the headline and tagline clearly state something horrid will happen to you in the Caymans.  “Where once in a lifetime happens everyday” and “Far From Expected” sound more like terrifying threats than irresistible invitations to visit.  What kind of island are they running over there? And more importantly, what kind of advertising agency?

For my money, I say stick to those reliable old favorite isles, Harbor Island, Saint Barth’s and Parrot Cay.  At least the only lethal things there come in tall frosted cocktail glasses.

What a difference an Ekberg makes

Anita Ekberg frolics for Frederico Fellini in La dolce vita, 1960. She also provides the models in yesterday's post (below) with an invaluable lesson in how to "move the merch".I don't mean to harp on about yesterday's unfortunate fish pond incident (see Pamella Roland ad below), but when I came across this picture of Anita Ekberg in Fellini's revolutionary La dolce vita I thought to myself, now that's how you model a dress in a fountain!  

Okay, I'll let it go now. 

Lemon Chiffon: A powerful new hallucinogen?

FRESH BAKED? Models tripping out in a fish pond.

The narrative of this new Pamella Roland ad is highly confusing.  I attempted to decipher the “story” last night (it was a slow Tuesday) and came up with far more questions than answers, i.e.

1. Do women really fantasize about wading in fetid fishponds wearing evening gowns?  

2. Is the forlorn looking model on the left plotting to escape the shoot by drowning herself?

3. Is the blonde on the right communing with aliens, pumping up her tan or tripping her tits off on mushrooms? 

4. Were Koi or any other decorative fish injured during the production of this ad?

5. Did the water damage the dress?  And if so was it insured?  

6. Was the models hair dyed to match their outfits?  And if so, were they insured?

Color me confused. 


CAUTION:  If symptoms persist, call your Doctor...and your lawyer. 

At the risk of alienating clients and friends both old and new I must admit to seldom wearing deodorant. Blame it on those old reports claiming that aluminum in deodorants caused Alzheimer’s disease, various cancers and (unfathomably) excessive sweating.  Turns out that these reports were largely incorrect, but today, alarming new evidence has surfaced that vindicates my many years of unscented sweatiness. According to these revealing new Old Spice ads, deodorant is far more dangerous than previously thought.  These riveting un-retouched images prove for once and for all that prolonged exposure to deodorant causes the following symptoms:

Grotesque, leech-like white growths the size of Mount Matterhorn

Even more grotesque green, blue and white growths the size of Fiji

Painful smatterings of clipped chest hair on pasty white skin

Uncontrollable bouts of hilarity