Hillary Trumped

Did you see Hillary Clinton’s TV ads? They were powerful stuff. Simple and honed, mercilessly hammering the opponent’s weak spot: all those crazy things Trump kept saying on the campaign trail.

What was striking about the ads was the simplicity and bravery of the approach. Often they seemed to feature little except the words themselves, with only a minimal touch to emphasise just how horrendous the sentiments were – and how far the candidate was from what you’d expect from a political leader.

The young women looking in the mirror:

The young children watching the TV:

The veteran doing the same:

It reminded me of the ‘shot on iPhone 6’ campaign.

What’s the best way to demonstrate just how good the camera is? Put real photos up there on the billboard. Let them do the work and demonstrate the truth. There’s no need to spoil it by doing anything else. Just repeat, repeat, repeat until the message is plain to see and impossible to dismiss.

In a similar way, what’s the best way to demonstrate how unsuitable your opponent is for high political office? Show all the awful stuff he’s said in public. No need for editing or trickery. Just play it back and let him disqualify himself, again and again.

I was really impressed by the ads. I thought it was a properly powerful political campaign. And 60 million Americans may well have agreed – but clearly not the 60 million who mattered on the day.

Perhaps the problem was that Clinton needed to connect with voters who actually liked many of the things Trump was saying. The more outrageous his statements, the more popular he became.

So in hindsight, maybe a campaign that amplified all the things he said may not have been the smartest move…


Let’s get the white table* in The White House

It’s a sign of the times when the most eloquent and elegant points of view in American politics this year have come from chocolate packaging. A new range of confectionery from Design Army of Washington DC and choclatiers, Hill McGraw has served the only sweet things in a bitter war of undignified words.

Choose your chocolate from 6 candidates called Red State, Tea Party, Left Wing, Filibuster, Flip-Flopper or Taxation without Representation.designarmy_political_b

Let’s hope some of this is on the white table in The White House to remind the next president to show some style.

*For those that don’t know, The White Table is a trending cultural phenomenon from the media and advertising world. It’s what The Water Cooler once was. It’s an unofficial forum. It’s a centre for conversation. Instead of watering yourself, you put a home baked cake on it or sweets you brought back from holiday or business. Then you share with colleagues in a civilised manner. Try it in your open plan or oval office.designarmy_political_e

What I made you think


David Hare once said that the engine for all art is metaphor. It’s talking about one thing as a way of talking about something else.

Often it’s talking about something small to talk about something big. Like writing about a family feud as a way of talking about America falling apart.

Or you could talk about something big as a way of talking about something smaller. Like writing about an intergalactic war between mutants as a way of talking about fuck-knows.

The trick is giving the reader a job to do. Have them complete the communication circle: you spell it out so much and they make the mental leap.

In advertising theory there is something similar – a 90/10 rule. You spell out 90% of what you want they say and the reader infers the final 10% in their head.

Why do that? Because the thought you have yourself as a reader is more persuasive than the thought you are told. It’s how we make the reader think what we want them to think: ‘Smoking causes cancer’ is nowhere near as powerful as ‘Cancer cures smoking’.

But just how much can we make the reader work? 80/20? 70/30? 60/40? Is there a law of diminishing returns as you up the ante? Or do people love a crossword?

Let’s have a look. I’ve gathered some examples – that I think ‘work’ – that go as far as 50/50.




Conceptual image. Take-no-chances line. I’d say it’s a 90/10.


Again: a bit of work for the reader with the image, no work with the line. A DM piece from 2006. 90/10 I reckon.



From fat to fit. Simple. The ‘A’ and ‘I’ are clear, but maybe some people would need a second look. So 80/20.

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He so dominates the Tour de France they named the country after him. They show you a map spelling that out. But the copy is all in the image – your eye might search for a proper headline and not read the image on first lance (get it?). So 80/20.



No doubt this is portfolio work – not live work. But I’ve seen this kind of stuff win at D&AD so let’s keep the lie going. I give it 70/30 as after you ‘get’ the image you still have to ‘get’ the point of the ad. In your mind’s eye you almost have to see a strapline beside the logo of the sentiment ‘Explore your imagination’.



First one is ‘quicker’. You don’t cut corners with safety equipment. But while every parent wants the best for their kids, every parent also complains about how needlessly expensive kids’ stuff is. What’s that you said? That’s just a single poor execution? Shut up. 70/30.




They’re real. D&AD winners. Ran in UK newspapers. ‘So boring it’s intriguing’, ‘so plain they’re pretty’ seems to be the approach. It makes you work for the topic – and even the point – so it’s a 60/40 for me. But I think they get away with it.


Wolf in sheep’s clothing is clear. But what’s the claim exactly? The car looks like a family runaround but has some sporty features under the hood? Something like that? 60/40.



The thought is great: it’s so packed full of fish, and nothing but fish, fishermen would actually fish in a giant can of it. But a little slow for OOH (OOH D&AD winner in 2001). So I reckon it’s a 50/50 or thereabouts.


Jesus Christ. I Googled it. W=win. D=draw. Meaning L=loss. But there are no Ls when it comes to Arsenal. A firm 50/50. Then again, I call football soccer.