Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

don’t think, just doodly do

July 17, 2013

Dumb Ways to Die, that viral hit with death-wish cuties, swept Cannes. But what won me over were the quotes from  John Mescall, who created this sing-along wonder.

“People do not fall in love with ideas. Execution is everything,”  said Mescall.

execution is everything.

In other words, our ideas don’t matter as much as how we express them.

In other words, it comes down to art.

Do you agree?

“We live in a visual age,” said Mescall at Cannes. “But nothing is more powerful than language used intelligently with artistry.”

Read more:


writing tips for the criminally inclined

May 2, 2013

Great writing takes guts and danger and an edge of crazy. Not for the faint of heart. If you want to plunge into that world, here’s what you need to know.


Hemingway said, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” Martinis aside, he meant don’t hold back in your first draft. Dump every insane, half-baked, inspired, stupid idea onto the page. Later you can carve it up with the exacto knife.


 2.     STEAL

In his book, “Steal like an Artist,”  Austin Kleon claims that no original ideas exist. So seek inspiration everywhere: from that pop song, to the Chagall exhibit, to that trailer that blew you away. Don’t be afraid if something’s been done before. Steal, then transform.


 3.     PUNCH

Forget soft, wimpy words. Seek out action verbs. Make your sentences brief and direct. Use short words—they get into the brain faster. If your sentence starts with “there is” or ‘it is” then, pal, your punch lacks power.

Screen shot 2011-07-29 at 3.22.29 PM


Engage in identity theft. Try on other personalities in your writing. Personality inspires word choice, cadence, and can transform something dull into entertainment. Just ask Randall, the guy who turned a film on Honey Badgers into 59 million YouTube hits (and counting)!

  5.     MURDER

Once you’ve spilled your guts onto the page, go in for the kill. Axe those extra words. Strike out adjectives. Murder those ideas that you love, but don’t fit the goals this time. Kill your darlings. Only the strong survive.

What are some of your favorite writing tips?

why words matter

April 13, 2013

“I said the same thing, but with different words.”

unleash your writing genius

April 2, 2012

Hola from Barcelona!

One of our favorite cities for architecture and inspiration.

When we weren’t cruising the city, we were soaking up the sights and sounds of Promax Europe. Including the awesome Reep One. The conference was jamming!

Then we shared our tips for unleashing your writing genius. First step–find what inspires you . . . (click the picture to see the graphics and spots from our presentation).

Bare your assets

July 6, 2011
The room was buzzing at our Promax session in New York.
Were we in the buff? Nah.
We were stripping spots down to their bare essentials:
Message, Ideas, and Words.
The pictures were just a tease.
Click the bra to see what we showed.
Give it time to load. Chock full of fun spots!

the sweet smell of turpentine

July 6, 2011

Linda and I both get giddy at the smell of turpentine. No, we’re not sniffing the stuff; those spirits evoke memories of art school and long days diving into vats of paint and clay and our inner creative worlds.

So when Artmorpheus asked us to give a workshop on branding at Mass College of Art we couldn’t wait to roll up our paint-splattered T’s. On our way to their high-tech auditorium we strolled past studios crammed with paintings, sculptures, and print-making. Ah, the smell of it.

Usually artists are allergic to the B word–they don’t want anyone fencing them in. But we explored how every art has its discipline, and branding can be a kind of art. If you strike the right attitude.

let’s talk

October 23, 2009


We’ve talked about conversational writing. Now, let’s talk conversation. Part 4 of our Write With Balls session (from Promax/BDA) is all about getting the dialogue going.

Imagine running to a train when, suddenly,  other commuters break into a fox trot. What would you do? I’d take a picture and call my friends. That’s what T-mobile hoped for–and they turned it into a viral video that circled  the globe.

January 20th. I was sitting in front of the TV, laptop open and, while several million huddled together  in the Washington,  I was with all my friends watching the event with CNN and Facebook.

It didn’t matter that all the comments flying by were just a virutal version of “Can you believe this is happening?”

The ability to connect with my friends and strangers made a great moment even more memorable. And it was a perfect fit for CNN’s brand.

Finally, this spring, I felt like the world had taken a weird turn when I saw this video on youtube. But of course it was part of another massive plan. This time for True Blood, a revolutionary and virtual ad campaign.

Shared moments,  virtual moments, vampire moments: They’re different sides of the same subway token. Kind of crazy, totally exciting and here we are with the best seat in the house, witnessing this new frontier.

What’s your favorite shared moment?

uncorking ideas

October 15, 2009

It’s spring in Johannesburg and if that’s not enough to put a smile on my face, new friends and fantastic wine does.

Preparing another session of Write With Balls, this time for Promax/BDA Africa and I turn on the TV. What’s on in the southern hemisphere? Plenty of channels and a familiar line-up; Discovery, Nat Geo, Cartoon, and CNN. But I watch for the ads.

So, how does Coke talk to its customers? With music of course. There’s a detergent for doing laundry in a bucket vs a washing machine.

Plus ads for a very special kind of bra. Well, not exactly a bra — something you wear over a bra. These print ads show you what you need to know.



More from Jo-burg in a day or two. In the meantime do you ever turn the TV on when you travel, if so what do you like? I once saw a game show in Italy that was over the top. You?


learn the lingo 2

September 23, 2009

Welcome to another excerpt of Write with Balls,  our creativity session fresh from the television marketing conference of  Promax/BDA.  And thanks to our fans for their cheerful prompting.

We’ve talked about fresh, conversational writing (learn the lingo 1).

Now let’s talk the flip side: clichés.


When you write for TV, clichés lurk under every ad.

Clichés are safe, familiar grooves for our brains. Trouble is, they’re so comfortable they become invisible. Death for getting your ad noticed.

We say, clichés: if you can’t beat them, beat them up. Give them a twist. Apply them in unexpected ways.  Make your audience wake up and go “Huh?” and then smile.

Here’s a great, snarky example from Animal Planet.

Short and funny; Animal Planet gives us the entire attitude of the show in seven words.

‘Course, if you want a whole rat’s nest of clichés, go no further than soap operas.

Evil twins. Amnesia. The big bad diva.

Watch how this Canadian channel sums up a lifetime in one name.

This next spot comes from MTV Asia. It works as a pun. Puns, incidentally, are the evil twin of clichés. For me, MTV pulls it off. What do you think?

The ending is blunt and clear and, even better, speaks the language of the audience.

What’s your best technique for fresh writing?

reverse the suck

June 26, 2009

“I try to think of things that suck.” That’s what inventor David Levy says—he helped to create the PowerBook. In other words, confront the problem—that which sucks—head on. Then use it for the basis of your solution.


When Henry Ford went into the car business, the typical factory floor was peppered with workstations and folks mulling around. Toes were stepped on, coffee spilt, and time wasted. So Henry, efficient man that he was, thought to bring the work to the people. He invented the assembly line and carpel tunnel.


Even the Middle Ages had it’s share of “aha” moments. During the Black Plague, it wasn’t always easy to tell who was holding on to dear life and who was actually dead. Huge issue here when folks started being buried alive. So, one clever soul stood up and said “Hey, let’s make sure people are dead before we bury them!”  A cheer rose from the crowd and they began systematically driving stakes through the coffins. From that day forward, no one was buried alive. 


So, what’s the worst thing you’re dealing with right now? Turn it around, stick a stake through it, and be willing to look at it in an entirely new way. It works, cross my beating heart.