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How To Get Ahead in Advertising

by Lucy Sweet
27 October 2014 16 Comments

From somebody who works in advertising, take it from me, most of it is torture. But here are some handy tips of how to bastardise what's in vogue and get ahead of the pack.


I work in advertising. In fact, you may know me by my trademark catchy slogans such as: ‘Save Money On This Thing’ and ‘20% off.’ I was led to believe from the telly that advertising was a glamorous profession entirely populated by sexy, good-looking people drunk out of their minds on Martinis. OK, so occasionally Darrin from Bewitched might pop up and freak out about the Petersen account, but apart from that it would be a riot of fags, booze, steak dinners and shagging.

Sadly, though, the advertising industry is nothing like Mad Men, just as sitting at home in your pants all day watching Loose Women is nothing like Desperate Housewives. For every cool cats in Ikea ad there’s a DFS ad. For every million-dollar Honda extravaganza, there’s a Moonpig.

The problem is that most of the time, any brilliant ideas that are flying around are immediately zapped by the droning, humourless, corporate Insect-o-cutor called The Client. Most clients wouldn’t know a good idea if it rogered them up the arse with a broom handle to the tune of ‘Hope It’s Chips, It’s Chips’. So creatively barren are they that you may as well just get a gorilla to play drums and have done with it – except that’s been done already. Still, if you’re a frustrated creative, here a few current advertising trends that should tide you over in the absence of anything more original…


Think of an animal. Let’s say… a squirrel. Call it Boris. Give it a funny foreign accent. Go to the pub.

Transitional ads

Thanks to the successful yet uniquely depressing John Lewis ad – where a woman goes through all of life’s stages surrounded by nice garden furniture and wine glasses – everyone wants a faux profound entire-life-in-30-seconds advert. Add a winsome cover version of a heavy metal classic to add  ‘emotion’ and you’ve got teary-eyed 50 year old women battering down the door trying to buy towels.

“Sadly, the advertising industry is nothing like Mad Men, just as sitting at home in your pants all day watching Loose Women is nothing like Desperate Housewives.”

Impressive yet pointless stunts

Fancy chucking 3 million bouncy balls down a hill? Yeah, go on. It’ll be cool. Or maybe you could set off some paint bombs in an abandoned building? OR you could draw a massive corn circle in the shape of a cock and film it from space. As long as it’s big, memorable and means fuck all – go for it.

Integrated Bollocks

Clients are about as knowledgeable about viral marketing as The Care Bears are about rimming, but they all know they want something edgy. Like a monkey tap dancing. Or someone skateboarding off a cliff. Or a child dressed as Lady Gaga singing Poker Face into a hairbrush in a depressing kitchen in Widnes. Even if your client makes something shit like ping pong balls, they will request a fully integrated campaign featuring a ping pong ball Youtube ad, a ping pong ball app, a ping pong ball themed Glee-style flashmob on the tube and a ‘WE LOVE PING PONG BALLS’ Facebook page where you can vote for your favourite fucking ping pong ball.

Yes, it’s all very depressing. But eager young creatives shouldn’t despair. Whether you’re at a big London agency or Pissflaps Digital Concepts in Carlisle, you’re young. You’re keen. You’ve got the brains. One day, YOU will dream up an iconic ad, right up there with ‘You Can’t Get Better Than a Kwik Fit Fitter’. Something that will sweep the nation and get millions of people clicking the ‘Like’ button. After that, you’ll be so loaded you’ll be able set up your own agency and fill it with sexy people and Martinis and nice chairs. Until then, though, put down your iPhone, get off your arse, and start setting up Boris The Squirrel’s Twitter account.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

MmmMudhuts 10:34 am, 20-Oct-2010

You've about summed it up nicely there. I've sat on both agency and client side. I presume you've seen this classic. (possibly one for the videos page)

jugoya 10:36 am, 20-Oct-2010

An ad I thought original is the tipp-ex one on YouTube with a man and a bear. Have a look, it's fun. Oh and I remembered the brand, so it worked.

Russ 1:32 pm, 20-Oct-2010

Spent years writing radio adverts. Came close to taking my own life on several occasions. You've no idea how many carpet shops claim to be "Simply The Best"

sgr 11:09 pm, 20-Oct-2010

i was singing 'hope it's chip's it's chip's' just the other day whilst cooking a nutritious meal for my family. So that one is still working 25 years later. However good adds like this and 'super screen' are few and far between unfortunately.

Laureen 10:02 am, 22-Oct-2010

i'm at at the agency side, just 6 mons. i think my brain just died.

Kieran McGhee 2:40 pm, 23-Oct-2010

I've been at one particular agency for 10 years. It's not just the clients who are hopeless, though....

Ange 1:57 pm, 24-Oct-2010

I have always wondered which agency came up with the idea of dubbing the kid in the Glade advert's speech with "I want to do a poo at Paul's house". Literally making money out of the smell of shit.

Geraint 9:17 am, 25-Oct-2010

In one

Bravenewmalden 11:55 pm, 2-Dec-2010

If in doubt, stick a fucking VW camper van in the shot. Press, TV or online, no matter what the location, regardless of the product, a VW camper van shows that you really know cool.

Lee 8:21 am, 10-Apr-2011

Bring back the Café HAG advert i say.

David B 5:32 pm, 10-Apr-2011

I also work in advertising. Once upon a time I wrote a similar critique of PR on a forum and for my sins got a vitriolic, (presumably) wide eyed, nostril flaring, fire breathing response from someone taking severe exception to my prose and DEMANDING!!!! an apology. After telling her to eff off as I'd only insulted her profession and not her family or anything else worthwhile, she sent me a creepily psychotic private message weepily explaining that she'd had a bad day/week and offering to be "Friends?" Well, I'm not going to disagree with your critique. In many ways you're not far wrong, but what the mentalist who gave it to me with both barrels highlights is another problem endemic in the wider marketing/communications industry - the propensity to take ourselves very, very fucking seriously indeed!!!!! In a nutshell we are using our creativity to see dishwasher tablets and getting paid handsomely for it. If anyone in advertising or PR ever gets their feathers ruffled by people having a pop, my advice is always "Fuck off and become a struggling artist earning a sixth of what you do now" If you are not prepared to do this, to soothe your pique, the alternative is just to STFU and take the paycheck.

David B 5:34 pm, 10-Apr-2011

That should have been to "sell" dishwasher tablets!

Simon Martin 2:07 pm, 18-Apr-2011

Sky Plus, the advert killer. Wherever possible I watch things in arrears and X30 the adverts, it's become quite a skill to land on the bookend logo just in time for the program. The worse adverts are the badly dubbed ones, they can't even be arsed to make an advert for an English speaking country, don't we buy enough of their shit to deserve one? It's usually air fresheners.

idora wan rabeal 12:01 pm, 15-Jan-2012

Advertising industry sucks in my country!

Washishu 3:45 pm, 10-Feb-2013

As David B says, it's all about selling dishwasher tablets - or some other shit. There's a limited number of ways to be cool, sexy, witty, amusing, original about that and they've all been used years ago. Hence we are now stuck with claims that Wilkinson can "Free your skin", or the reassurance that some knobs at Nissan "Believe that technology should open the city". A large banner at a BP station announced "More miles per tank : come in for more information". I went in and asked for more information. She hadn't a clue what I was talking about.

Greg 6:55 pm, 27-Oct-2014

"If you work in advertising, kill yourself you sucker of satans cock." ~ Bill Hicks

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