Events galore…

Writing for Advertising

Will Awdry is Creative Partner at Ogilvy & Mather and hosts our Writing For Advertising Workout.

One of the nastiest comments you can make about advertising is not that it’s inaccurate, but that it’s derivative. To describe an idea as ‘derivative’ as in ‘borrowed from’ – as opposed to the noun that is some murky financial device – is a savage critique.

It immediately suggests a lack of freshness. Accusations of stale, lazy or ripped-off follow. Award juries deny gongs on the basis of being derivative. This is ridiculous, as derivation is one of the immutable foundations of advertising.

Much of Adland’s best work is borrowed, inspired by, or just a plain nick. A decade ago, our Audi Quattro ‘Wakeboarder’ spot followed – unwittingly – on the heels of a Goodyear ad featuring a man waterskiing behind a car in the Everglades. This year’s winning Swiss Life press campaign [below] about the need to address life’s ‘twists and turns’ financially is the oldest strategy in the book. It is also brilliantly realised. Addressed with the right language, ideas become refreshingly differentiated. In today’s jargon, ownership of a thought with a whiff of the familiar about it depends on it being re-skinned, re-purposed and tailored to fit its own space.

Life’s Turn In A Sentence, Swiss Life, Spillmann / Felser / Leo Burnett, Press Advertising, 2012

Of course, I’m not saying there aren’t original ideas, just that there is lots of echo. What differentiates one from another is the way it’s expressed. That’s what wins awards, captures minds, ensures the client picks up the lunch bill. It’s what gives a brand its individuality, its lifeblood. It’s where you, scribbling genius that you are, come in.

The use of language in commerce is now more critical than ever. While a collective jargon holds sway, vocabulary dribbles out of circulation all the time. New specimens emerge to take its place. We all fish from the same well and speak – at times – the same gobbledygook. However, it doesn’t hurt to develop your own little stream of curiosities with which to pepper your points. For example, I cherish the Guardian journalist Marina Hyde’s use of ‘weapons-grade’ as an adjective, employed sparingly but devastatingly, as her own-brand secret weapon.

You can’t teach dynamic linguistics and I certainly wouldn’t sign up to it. But, in the inevitable plug for D&AD’s writing course, you can create conditions in which consenting adults can reach for new written expression from within themselves. Experience tells that it is not difficult to unlock. The results are the very opposite of austerity-tinged workplace language, tired and diminished code that it has become.

Of course, writing should be vibrant, precise and illuminating. Lazy thinking and bad practice all too often lead to incomprehensible vagueness. Personally, I’m with Confucius when he says, “When words lose their meaning, people lose their freedom”.

Writing for Advertising next takes place on 2 October.

Writing for Design

John Simmons is an author, director of The Writer and host of the D&AD Writing for Design Workout.

It could be love. It often happens when Words meet Pictures. So here’s a chance to be there when that emotional charge sparks in the room and you fall in love with words.


As wordsmiths you often work with designers, as designers you have to respect words beyond a role as slabs of ‘lorem ipsum dolor’ text. Whichever angle you’re coming from, at this Workout session we’ll play creatively with words but play for a purpose. Perhaps one purpose will be to create a founding story for a bright new brand, like Innocent once did. Or we might simply look at an image – say Giorgio di Chirico’s “The Uncertainty of the Poet” (insert image) – and wonder what words we might conjure up in response. Will we say, as Wendy Cope once did, ‘I am a poet of bananas’?

It’s time to look afresh at those bananas – metaphorically speaking – and wonder how you might repackage them with words. Then you’ll be able to take a bunch of new ideas back to work and start writing with a sharper taste for words.

Book onto John’s Workout session her


Be amazed by Buddy Wakefield

Stranger Collective is an all-encompassing writing agency that gathers and nurtures the very best talents and ideas to create intelligent, crafted, playful words that count. We keep our thinking fresh by feeding our creativity [link to]. Everyone we work with benefits from the space to create outside of client work. It’s about continually nourishing the parts of our brains that deliver those lightbulb moments so that we stay original, vibrant and ahead of the curve. We enjoy sharing those opportunities to feed creativity and we especially love it when that means drinking in the pure passion for words offered up by some of our favourite performance poets.

Last year – under the guise of Telltales [link to] – we lured creative genius Ross Sutherland down to Falmouth with his smashing lecture on what game design can teach us about creativity. Building on that success we’re now thrilled to present wordsmith supreme, Buddy Wakefield – two-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champion who’s been featured on HBO, BBC and Def Poetry Jam, published internationally and performed everywhere from New Orleans to New York, San Quentin to Rotterdam.

On a rare visit to the UK, and for one night only, Buddy will be helping us celebrate the pure love of raw, powerful, humorous and heartbreaking words – with support from standout local writer Callum Mitchell who’ll be fresh from successfully pedalling his poetry around the UK at venues including Glastonbury, Port Eliot, the Barbican, the Southbank and Edinburgh.

So if you want to witness, “A talent so boundless, audiences can’t help but gasp,” (Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, Everything is Everything) join us in Falmouth on Tues 4 September, 7pm in the Daniell Room at The Poly.

Expect goosebumps. Tickets £4, available from the Poly box office or through the Poly website Jo Thomas

The Water Poet
Some of my favourite writers were drunks. Most of them are dead now. And three or four pints is my limit these days as I slide into middle-aged mediocrity. There’s no place for sick on your slippers.

I digress. A few months ago – May, if I remember rightly – May, Fiona Thompson organised a drink-up at The Betsey Trotwood on the Clerkenwell Road in London. The idea was to meet with other 26 members in a literary themed pub. It was fun. More people turned up than we expected. So we decided to organise a regular ‘session’ once every few months.

Next up is a real find courtesy of 26er, Lynda Relph-Knight, the eminent design columnist and commentator. It’s The Water Poet, hidden in a dinky backstreet near Spitalfields Market, not so far from Brick Lane. We’re going to wait until the Olympics is done & dusted and everyone is back from their summer holidays. It’ll start from 6.30pm on Thursday 6th September, five weeks before Wordstock. We look forward to seeing you there. And we hope that other 26 cities, towns and villages will be able sort something too.

Good cheer to all! Andy Hayes



The Word one-day festival

I am organising The Word, a one-day festival on September 22 for writers in Lancashire that is based loosely on the Wordstock model. We have great guest speakers including eBook bestselling author sensation Kerry Wilkinson and one of the BBC Culture Show’s top 12 best new novelists, Jenn Ashworth. Our writing project on the day, Writing Astley Hall, will get everybody writing about our Elizabethan venue, one of the most beautiful houses in Lancashire. Any writer in the North West is welcome to this great networking opportunity. I look forward to seeing as many of you as can make it in October. Alan Whelan


Throwaway Lines Launch: change of date

The Throwaway Lines launch night for ‘From Litter to Litterature’ has moved to Tuesday, 30th October. It still starts at 5.30pm and ends at 8.30. And, we’ll still be at The Free Word Centre on Farringdon Road. We’re limited on numbers, so book your free place soon by emailing with Throwaway Art in the subject line. Find out more here. Andy Hayes

More parsnip-buttering

Elise Valmorbida writes about forthcoming Russianness at the Oxfordshire haven of Stonehill House

Do you remember I wrote about my Pasternak weekend in June earlier this year? Er, well, I did. Have a look back at my review here. No. Have a look forward! You too can enjoy a weekend of inspiration, delicious food (did I mention the cakes?), beautiful surroundings and a natural open-air pool to swim in… this is a heavenly break, especially if you didn’t manage to get away this summer.

There are two more Russian Cultural Weekends coming up soon:

Saturday 1st September – Mark le Fanu on the film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky. The day begins at 14:30 with the first of Mark’s talks and finishes in the evening, after dinner, with a special opportunity to see the film, “Mirror”. Day-rate £50 (concessions £40), buffet dinner with wine included. For residential rates, please see the Stonehill House booking form.

Saturday 8th September – Rosamund Bartlett returns to give a series of talks on Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, with a particular focus on the collaboration with Stravinsky. 10:00 – 16:00. Day-rate £40 including buffet lunch. For residential rates, please see the booking form.

You can go for the day or for the weekend. All the details, rates and a booking form can be found at the Stonehill House website.


UK Speechwriters’ Guild Conference 2012
Speechwriters from across the globe will congregate for the sixth UK Speechwriters’ Guild conference at Bournemouth University Media School on 20/21 September 2012.

Fred Metcalf, author of the Penguin Book of Humorous Quotations, former scriptwriter for David Frost and speechwriter for John Kerry and John Major, will chair the conference, which this year has attracted delegates from Singapore, Turkey, Ukraine, Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago.

The speakers will answer the question, ‘Do Speeches Still Matter?’

They include US public speaking expert, Chris Witt, author of the provocative Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint and the former speechwriter to Paddy Ashdown and author of Lend Me Your Ears, Dr Max Atkinson.

Jan Sliva, speechwriter to the President of the European Investment Bank, will talk about what can go wrong at the highest level and Danish rhetoric expert, Christian Nicholas Eversbusch, will give a demonstration of how demagogues manipulate audiences. Voice-coach, Caroline Goyder, will speak on ‘vernacular excellence’.

Charles Cowling, editor of the Good Funeral Guide, will run a session on how to write a eulogy, BAFTA nominee film director, Tim Clague will explain how to put your speech on YouTube and Piers Letcher, senior Speechwriter at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), will talk about his experiences writing for UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, and Nelson Mandela.

‘Since 2008 our conferences have attracted the leading lights in the speechwriting world. The craft can be solitary and anonymous, in fact, the job of speechwriting has been compared to robbing banks. It’s not done to tell everyone about your work. Only in our own company can we really share our achievements.’ says organiser Brian Jenner.

Tickets can be purchased from here.

You can find out more about the UK Speechwriters’ Guild here. Brian Jenner

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