Paul Saxton

Advertising and marketing copywriter based in Norwich. I can help you to build your brand by helping you to sell your products and services.

WeightWatchers

A great series of fun ads that get across the message that WeightWatchers isn't just a last resort for the morbidly obese: it's there for everyone, for both you and me (well, not me). There's an ad for men, an ad for parents and an ad for busy people like you and me (well, not me). 

The production and editing is superb. But it's the carefully chosen cast of characters that make the difference: stressed out mums, busy management types, the working man, drinkers, eaters, joggers... the lot. And best of all, you get the impression that taking part in WeightWatchers will be fun, easy and completely tailored to you. Great work all round.

Only Scumbags Speed

From Northern Ireland, yet another public safety ad that relies on shock value and the dramatic consequences of speeding in order to promote safer driving. What it doesn't do - as these ads never do - is talk to people on a level they can relate to. Nobody who speeds seriously thinks they're going to end up killing a child. It's such an implausible, unthinkable thing - the kind of thing that only happens to other people. This distance of thinking is stretched even further when the message includes a whole picnic blanket of kids crushed to death by a rolling car. So ludicrous and cartoony that it's almost comical.

I live in a nice middle-class area with loads of houses and kids and schools and shops. The speed limit around here is clearly shown as 20mph.  Yet every morning and afternoon, when the kids are to and fro-ing from school, I gnash my teeth at the sight of nice middle-class mums driving around like idiots (at the same time, of course, as displaying their 'Child on Board' stickers in the back windows of their nice middle-class cars.)

If you asked people what kind of people speed near schools, I imagine most would reply that they were pretty awful people. And I imagine most people wouldn't dream of admitting that they speed: after all, that's the kind of thing only awful people do.

(There are too many 'peoples' in that paragraph.)

A much more effective campaign, I reckon, would be us collectively adopting and promoting the following sentiment: "Only Scumbags Speed". The road signs would carry it, the information leaflets that kids bring home from school, TV ads, radio ads, posters... the lot. "Only Scumbags Speed". We keep it, we repeat it and we encourage ourselves to ensure that in the eyes of other people we're never seen as the kind of scumbag who speeds. Seriously, who'd want to be thought of as a scumbag? The really good thing about it is that it's self-evidently true: the only people who, for instance, choose to speed near schools are scumbags. I don't care how nice and middle-class and worthy you think you are. You do something like that - you're a scumbag.

Of course, the government would never go for anything that uses the word scumbag. They can show kids being crushed to death and whine about the amount of people needlessly killed on our roads every year, but using the word 'scumbag' - well, that's going too far. They wouldn't want to offend anyone.

The likelihood of me killing a kid this morning as I drive 40mph up a 20mph street? Highly unlikely. The likelihood of people thinking I'm a scumbag for doing that? Fairly likely.


A Technique For Producing Ideas

One of the best things about James Webb Young's A Technique For Producing Ideas is that it’s around 50 (very small) pages long. It can be read in less than an hour. So if you’re one of those advertising people who doesn’t like to read, this is an excellent way of dipping your illiterate toe into the vast and thrilling waters of knowledge and discovery.

First published in the 1940s, ATFPI delivers an almost foolproof method for generating ideas. When I first read it, I was hoping to discover some kind of magical creative formula. As it turned out, there is a magical formula but it's almost exactly the same formula I'd always relied on (whether for advertising or any other creative thingies I’ve been involved in): putting things completely out of my mind and just waiting for the idea to miraculously appear. I’d always thought that was just my own combination of arrogance, laziness and wishful thinking.

The technique basically consists of the following five stages:

1. Do your research.

2. Absorb the material you’ve gathered.

3. Forget about it.

4. Experience the aha! moment.

5. Work on your idea.

Naturally, if it was as easy as that you wouldn’t need to read the book. But it’s in the actual reading that the magic really happens. Young was a beautiful – and beautifully clear – writer. His words go in and they stay in.

The blurb on the back cover says: ‘Young’s unique insights will help you look inside yourself to find that big, elusive idea – and once and for all lift the mystery from the creative process.’ Well, it certainly does that. But there is a caveat – this formula won’t work if you’re not a creative person. As far as Young’s concerned (taking his cue from the theories of the Italian sociologist Pareto) there are two types of people: speculators and stockholders. So if you’re in the latter camp, you’d probably be wasting your time reading the book.

Available here – brand spanking new for only £3.74. If you get nothing else from it, you’ll at least discover whether you’re a speculator or a stockholder.

Three Cheers for Cheerios

It's long been a rule of mine to never read the comments beneath YouTube videos. Not just because they're often full of racism, sexism and homophobia but also because they're so badly written. I mean, if you're going to be hateful at least try not to be stupid. Although, of course, the two often go hand-in-hand.

In a country with a mixed race President you'd think there'd be nothing at all controversial about an ad showing a mixed race family. For the majority of people in the US I'd guess that there isn't. But with YouTube commenters it's a different story: the lovely Cheerios ad below received some of the most disgusting comments imaginable. So much so that they've been forced to disable them on the video.

The only advantage of this is that even more people will see it. And all credit to Camille Gibson, Cheerios' vice president, who said: "At Cheerios we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all."