The great Bill Bernbach and his regrettably-pernicious legacy

Try this simple test.  Ask someone to gather together some samples of current print work from a handful of major financial services providers, and hide the logos;  then see if you can tell which item came from whom.  I think you’ll get most, and probably all, of them right.

Now ask someone to show you a Word document made up of debranded samples of the copy from the same range of providers.  Without the identity of the organisation, and without the visual clues of the design style, I don’t think you’ll have the faintest idea which is which.

I know, I know, my little test isn’t going to happen.  No-one reading this is ever going to ask anyone to prepare the material as I’ve described.  You’d feel like an idiot if you suggested it.  But that doesn’t matter.  Even without ever happening, my hypothetical exercise makes its point:  that designers and art directors care incredibly much more about developing distinctive visual identities than copywriters do about developing distinctive verbal identities.

Or to put the same point in plain English, all copy sounds the same.

Which is where Bill Bernbach comes in.

You remember.

Sure you do.

New Yorker, heyday in the sixties, wrote all those great ads.  VW.  El Al.  Purdue’s Chickens.  (I think it was Purdue’s.) 

Very short.

Sentences.

And paragraphs. 

And always a joke at the end.

Hugely influential.  And hugely successful.

That’s right.  His heyday was the agency’s make-hay day.

Look, sorry, I can’t keep this up.  This sort of stuff is too boring to write, let alone read.  And anyway, it’s getting in the way of the point I’m trying to make – which is, in short, that verbal identity matters at least as much as visual identity.

In fact, in a field like financial services where writing is still so important, I think I could make a case that it matters more.

And yet as far as I know, almost no-one – not the writers who should be fanatically fired-up about the possibilities, not the brand consultants who should understand the potential and not the clients who should be just the teeniest bit concerned that their stuff sounds exactly and precisely the same as everyone else’s – seems to be in the least bit interested in doing anything about it.

There are actually lots of very different reasons for this, and I might come back to this subject another day and suggest some of them.

But for the time being, let’s leave this piece to concentrate on one of them – giving a gentle kicking to one of advertising’s most sacred cows, even if a somewhat unusually Jewish sacred cow.  Thanks for nothing, Bill Bernbach.

 

So what is a cool brand anyway?

A friend gave me a troubling book a couple of days ago.  It’s a sort of coffee table book, only smaller – maybe an espresso table book – claiming to provide a list of the country’s 100 coolest brands.

Actually, as the details of the selection process make clear, it’s a sort of vanity-publishing exercise by a committee of 30-something it’s-grim-up-North-London luvvies, all shamelessly voting for their own employers and their mates and partners’ employers, in a way which makes the voting in the Eurovision Song Contest look like the apogee of fair elections.

Figuring out the links – direct and indirect – between the committee members and the selected brands is quite fun.  But what’s really thought-provoking is the book’s main text.  This consists of a hundred pieces, each of some 500 words or so, about each of the selected cool brands – the pieces having clearly been provided by the brands, or maybe their advertising and PR agencies, themselves.

Believe me, the pieces are not individually thought-provoking.  Individually, pretty much without exception, they are complete and utter bollocks.  Pretentious, vacuous, self-congratulatory, hollow, pompous, ridiculous, humourless – if these pieces were designed to alienate people from the brands in question they couldn’t do a better job.

But collectively, what’s interesting about them is how many different flavours of bollocks, so to speak, they encompass.  No doubt the same letter, or email, or whatever, went out to all of them – “give us 500 words on what makes your brand so cool and special.”  But hardly any two of them are written in the same way or at the same kind of level.  The most ridiculous are those written in desperate, over-wrought brand-speak:  “In today’s world of mobile telephony, one brand stands for empowerment, energy, passion and commitment.  It is a brand which inspires and energises consumers on five continents…” etc etc. The most boring are those which provide brief potted histories of the companies:  “In a small town in Canada, in 1997, a visionary entrepreneuar had a dream…”  There are those that drone on about their companies’ advertising and PR campaigns.  Those that talk about how much consumers love them.  Those that strive heroically to establish some kind of bogus and trivial “difference.”  Those that talk about “culture” and “values” a lot.  And so on and so on and so on.

What’s clear is that among the representatives of these “cool” brands, there isn’t the faintest trace of a consensus about what a brand is, or what a cool brand is, or what you write about when asked to say something about how cool your brand is.  The 100 cool brands are, of course, mostly different things.  But in the book, they also come across as 100 completely different kinds of things.

This bothers me.  I may be wrong, but this utterly fragmented picture seems to me to reveal that really none of us has actually agreed on any key ideas on what brands are, or how we describe them, yet.  If the book was about 100 cool aircraft, or 100 cool cars, or 100 cool movies, or 100 cool holiday destinations, or whatever, I would expect some variation in the way authors wrote about them.  But overall, I would expect a broad consensus – a generally-shared sense, even though with some exceptions, of what makes a plane or a car or a movie cool.

More than anything, this random collection of 100 badly-written and collectively-incoherent pieces made me think that most people responsible for brands – even allegedly the coolest ones – haven’t got the faintest idea what they’re doing.

And if that’s the case, then I guess that as someone closely involved with many brands – albeit none of the 100 coolest ones – I probably don’t know what I’m doing either. 

Hmm.  As I say.  A troubling book.

Oh God, he’s back on the trust thing again

Yes, I know, I’ve bored for England on this subject over the last few years.  But it’s back on my mind again because yesterday a journalist asked me some questions about AXA’s forthcoming brand campaign, which she says is designed to help rebuild trust in AXA.  And naturally I didn’t let a little thing like the fact that the campaign hasn’t broken yet and I know nothing whatsoever about it to stand in the way of offering some opinions.

On the phone, I rambled around most of my favourite trust-related themes.  But the angle I thought I might concentrate on here is one that sounds interestingly controversial, even if there turns out to be a bit less to it than first meets the eye:  that maybe the issue for AXA and everyone else in financial services (and indeed elsewhere) is not so much about building trust, but more about managing distrust.

I’ve made the point a hundred times that if you want to put a date on the moment when the game was up for trust, you couldn’t do much better than July 1st 1916.  That was the first day of the first battle of the Somme, and the day when the British Army took its worst-ever casualties – 60,000 dead, trustingly following their orders to advance at a walking pace across no-man’s-land towards the German trenches and an almost solid wall of machine gun fire.

And I’ve made the point probably exactly the same number of times that when it comes to the quality of individuals’ lives, the slow death of trust has been one of the best things that has ever happened in our society – maybe even the very best thing that’s ever happened.  Our freedom and happiness both depend to a huge extent on our hugely-increased ability to see through the lies that people tell us:  “Our artillery has destroyed the German barbed wire,” “You’ll get your reward in heaven,”  “Of course I’ll still love you in the morning,” “The cheque’s in the post,” “Your call is important to us.”

Anyway, whether or not you agree with me about this, you simply cannot deny that right across the board, in every possible area of life, it’s been falling for a long time to its lowest-ever levels and there isn’t a chance in a hundred million that people will return to their former trusting, believing, credulous, naive state.

Which is why I believe that rather than “rebuilding trust,” it seems to me that the challenge that AXA should really be dealing with is managing distrust – in other words, recognising that most customers are always going to maintain a doubtful, suspicious attitude that can flare up into full-on paranoia at any moment, and the trick is to take every possible opportunity to make sure it doesn’t.

It’s at this point that my argument turns out to be less interesting than you might have been hoping, because in fact the things that you do to manage distrust are pretty similar to some of the things you might do to build trust.

These things consist, in short, of taking every possible opportunity to behave in an explicitly and unmistakeably trustworthy manner – and, which isn’t quite the same thing, avoiding every possible opportunity to behave in what is, or what is seen to be, an untrustworthy manner.  As soon as you lie to me – just once – it’s all over.  If any AXA call centre IVR system tells me that my call is important to them – if it’s so fucking important why have they got IVR? – then I won’t trust them any more.  (If on the other hand the message tells me that in order to keep their costs down they’re using an automated system and targeting an average call waiting time of 9 minutes, then I might be pissed off but I could’t fault their honesty.)

I must admit, I’m not holding my breath.  The idea of behaving trustworthily – and not untrustworthily – is so alien to financial services companies that I’ll be astonished if AXA pulls it off.  My suspicion is that behind a veneer of new advertising and marketing, the actual behaviours of the company will change little if at all.  But I would be absolutely, ecstatically, life-changingly delighted to be wrong.

“Now there’s a thought.” Or rather, now there isn’t.

The trade papers are full of it – the departure of Jim Hytner from the Barclays marketing role, and his arrival at something called Top-Up TV.  To be frank, the valedictory encomia (?) are a bit ambivalent about his achievements in his three years there, and perhaps particularly about his BBH-created advertising campaign built around the strapline “Now there’s a thought.”

I’m a bit ambivalent about it too.  Given that I thought that Barclays’ previous campaign, built around the strapline “Fluent in finance” and featuring the actor Samuel L Jackson, was probably the most criminally useless waste of money in the history of money, I can’t decide whether “Now there’s a thought” is a little bit better or a little bit worse.

My head tells me that it’s worse.  Patronising, boring, clumsy, trivial, unmemorable, confused, fragmented, charmless, ugly, witless, embarrassing:  when these are the kindest things you can say about a campaign, you know it has problems.  My heart says it just can’t be worse, simply on the grounds that there is no number lower than zero.  It doesn’t really matter.  One trade paper reports that Hytner had an annual marketing budget of £350 million.  He can’t have wasted all of it – a fair amount must have been spent on tactical and product campaigns, some of which may have been perfectly successful.  But when I say the money spent on “Now there’s a thought” was entirely wasted, I mean entirely wasted – in other words, that if Barclays hadn’t done it at all, the only difference in their position today is that they would have several hundred million pounds more money.

I suppose that staggering sums are wasted in every industry.  You read about it in the papers:  IT projects that are cancelled £300 million down the line;  construction projects that come in at twice the budget;  pharmaceuticals that cost a fortune to develop but don’t get through clinical trials;  businesses that burn through their working capital and go bust;  the Olympics;  the Dome. 

But somehow – maybe just because I’m closer to it – the way that we waste money in this industry seems more offensive, more amateurish, more indefensible.   Subjective judgments, personal opinions, ego-driven decisions – and suddenly you’re £200 million poorer and you’ve nothing to show for it. 

I remember going to a conference where Hytner turned up to make his first (and I suspect only) case history presentation of the “Now there’s a thought” campaign.  He was full of confidence and enthusiasm, longing to share his great achievement with us.  The audience – a couple of hundred senior financial services marketers – watched stoney-faced.  Hytner gradually realised he wasn’t getting the response he’d been expecting.  He left as soon as he’d finished, without staying for questions.  In hindsight, I think it was the beginning of the end.

Workshops are for repairing cars. Mostly, anyway.

Is it just me, or are workshops on the up and up these days?  I keep getting invited to them.  More and more often, I’m being asked to moderate them.  Almost every day, I see groups of people closeted away in our meeting rooms for several hours on end, calling out sporadically for coffee, flipcharts and (the giveaway) blu-tak.  This is the age of the workshop.

In these circumstances, I would be churlish in the extreme (not to say foolish in the extreme) to make too many disparaging remarks.  And in any case, my thoughts on the subject are by no means of an entirely disparaging nature.  I think the word is pretty silly – it still makes me think of spanners and Swarfega.  But getting a group of people together for a long, focused and well-moderated discussion around a clearly defined topic and working towards one or more clear objectives is obviously a generally sensible thing to do.

In particular, it’s a sensible way to educate people;  it’s a sensible way to gain people’s involvement and commitment to a process, idea or initiative;  and, at the most basic level, it’s a sensible way to communicate with people.

But…(and in a piece like this there’s always a ‘but’)…

I remain absolutely as unconvinced as I ever was that a workshop is a great environment in which to come up with great, startling, original, world-changing ideas.  If you want to cover half a Nobo pad with cliched old rubbish, then fine.  If you want something really brilliant, forget it.

OK, in saying this I reveal my own background as an advertising copywriter.  As an advertising copywriter, you spend about 80% of your time in meetings of one sort or another – client briefs, agency briefs, research briefs, research debriefs, presentations of all shapes and sizes.  Some of these are quite interesting.  But they’re not where the magic moments happen.  The magic moments happen when you’re on your own, or maybe with one trusted colleague, and when you’ve been thinking about whatever it is so hard that blood is coming out of your ears.  And then, maybe, sometimes, something brilliant will happen.

You will never, ever, get a twentieth of that blood-vessel-bursting concentration and focus out of people taking part in a workshop.  We did one recently – because we felt we ought to – to try to generate a new name for the agency.  15 people came.  Much beer was drunk.  Our moderator wrote over 300 possible names on the Nobo pad.  They’re all stupid.  “How about Wombat?” someone says.  “Or Kangaroo,” says someone else.  “Marsupial” says a third.  “Or Platypus.”  “I’ve always liked the word Walrus” says a production man.  “How about The Carpenters?” says an older copywriter, reaching for his beer. The pad’s pages get covered.  By the end of the session, at 7.30, there’s reams of stuff.  But it’s all completely useless.

A week later, someone – well, OK, me – looking despairingly at these doodlings decides not to leave the agency one evening until something really special comes to mind.  Miraculously, about 10.45, something does.  I go home virtually shaking with relief.

I’m not sure quite why I feel so strongly about this.  I think it’s because I’ve spent the best part of thirty years in a world where problems are solved by individual responsibility, ownership and inspiration, and it’s understood that finding great answers is punishingly hard.  By contrast, in the world of the workshop, it’s all about group dynamics, there’s no individual ownership and no blood ever comes out of anyone’s ears.  To an agency copywriter, at best it’s creativity-lite:  at worst, it’s just a waste of time before you can get back to your own office and give the matter some serious thought.

Can’t write more now.  Workshop to go to.

Grumpy? Who are you calling grumpy?

Old chronologically, man chromosomically, but grumpy?  Surely not. Well, maybe just the odd flicker.

One such flicker, well, flickered a couple of days ago when I read an amazingly stupid and irritating article in Financial Adviser.  An what do flickeringly-grumpy old men do when they read amazingly stupid and irritating articles?  They write letters to the editor.  Here is mine.

Dear Sir  

Peter Maynard’s piece in last week’s Financial Adviser calling for more individual underwriting on protection products is a perfect example of much of what’s wrong with the financial services industry.    

Judging by his article I don’t think Mr Maynard is very interested in ideas about principles, but all the same I can’t resist gently pointing out to him that insurance, if it’s about anything, is about the pooling of risk.  In proposing an underwriting approach that’s based overwhelmingly on an individual’s own risk factors, Mr Maynard is describing a financial service of some sort, but it isn’t what most people would call insurance. 

But it’s the social implications of what Mr Maynard is saying that really appal me.  Without the slightest note of doubt or concern, he happily explains that his approach would involve huge increases in premiums for poor people, badly-educated people, people who live in parts of the country where lower socio-economic groups are over-represented, and people who live in local authority housing.    

Nowhere in his blinkered and complacent article does he mention the obvious drawback of all this:  that it effectively means excluding poorer people from affordable life insurance.  Indeed, the only disadvantages he mentions are that it might lead to a price war where in the end no companies would win, and that it might be difficult to process more complicated application forms. 

It really is quite amazing that in 2007, industry experts can publish articles in respectable trade publications that are so utterly disconnected from the real lives of real people in the real world.   It’s enough to confirm the worst fears shared by millions, that financial services remains an entirely introverted and self-serving industry which regards the public only as owners of wallets to be emptied as rapidly and completely as possible.   

And whether Mr Maynard is in fact cynical and calculating, or just silly and unthinking, he’s written the kind of article that makes me very much wish that I’d spent my last 20-odd years working in a slightly less contemptible industry.

Yours faithfully

Lucian Camp

There.  I feel much better now.

Too chatty? Too punchy? Too…whatever?

One of the biggest problems with the sort of work agencies do is that the language available to comment on it and give direction to those responsible for it is so incredibly imprecise.

In many walks of life, giving clear guidance isn’t hard.  Please make this drink stronger.  Please find me a car that goes faster.  Make this pain stop hurting.  Add up these figures accurately.

But how do you give guidance on the tone of voice of a piece of copy?  Even if you’re really good at it, it’s difficult.  And if you’re bad at it, you’ll probably find yourself using a small selection of terms that – whether you know it or not – are all certain to reduce the hapless copywriter to gibbering fury. (Our least favourite word of supposedly-positive guidance, by the way, is “punchy.”  And our least favourite word of criticism is “chatty.”)  

The fact is that in writing, as in various other fields of activity including music, illustration and acting, an ounce of demonstration is worth a ton of abstraction.  Let me read something, or listen to something, or see something, that’s similar to what you’re looking for, and I’ll understand.  But what you mean by forms of words like “more punchy” or “less chatty” is almost certainly completely different from what I mean by them – and therein lies the problem.

Actually, Lucian, could you change “therein”?  It’s awfully pompous. 

 

Welcome to HSBarWest TSB

True, I read it in a two-day-old newspaper while on holiday, but quite frankly I don’t think it would have mattered if it had been a two-year-old newspaper or even a 22-year-old newspaper.  The same basic story – a market research report saying consumers can’t really see any difference between any of the major high street banks – could have been written at more or less any time in the last few decades.

In itself, it’s too unsurprising to be worth writing about, or for that matter reading about.  But just before you click away, help me with this for a minute: is it unusual, and does it matter?

At first glance, it seems like good harmless fun to beat up the big banks for their pathetic and crucifyingly expensive failure to establish any noticeable differences between them.  We can happily mock their silly, naive, one-dimensional, advertising-led solutions, and laugh coarsely and throw soft fruit when their heads of brand and marketing make presentations about their expensive, elaborate (and, as we well know, invariably useless) staff engagement campaigns.

“Another way, my arse,” we cry.  “The world’s local laughing-stock, more like.”  “Now there’s a…waste of a huge advertising budget?”

But when we get tired of this innocent sport (and admittedly it takes a while) we might ask ourselves whether consumers are any less able to articulate differences between brands in banking than they are in any other sector dominated by a smallish number of basically similar organisations.

Staying in financial services, can anyone really articulate a difference between Prudential, Standard Life, Norwich Union and Legal & General?  Or between Direct Line, Churchill, Admiral and esure?  Or between Mastercard and VISA? 

Taking a step further afield, how about Marriott, Sheraton, Four Seasons and Intercontinental?  Or Pioneer, Denon, Alpine and Panasonic?  Or Thomson, Your Choice, MyTravel and Thomas Cook?  Or Carlsberg, Carling, Fosters and Kronenbourg?I could go on.  And on.  And on.

I’m not being naive or silly.  Forgive the expression, but I’m not trying to piss on any brand-builder’s (Elsanta) strawberries.  I accept that 50% of the answer to what I’m saying here lies in challenging the word “articulate.”  I’ve read the Wendy Gordon/Roy Langmaid stuff:  I know that it’s all in there, inside consumers’ heads, but often it’s hard to get it out. 

But I do think that in a world where many business leaders are building their businesses, and their products, without really showing the faintest interest in making them different in any noticeable way from their competitors, there’s something rather perverse and pathetic about the determination of their marketers and external agencies to try to convince the public that there is in fact a difference to be recognised.

When there is a difference – even if it’s quite a subtle one – there’s no problem.  Pizza Hut and Pizza Express are very different.  Easyjet and Ryanair are different.  McDonald’s and Burger King are different, although it’s hard to say exactly how.  VISA isn’t different from Mastercard, but it is different from American Express.  I think – although maybe I’m biased because we used to work on it – that MORE TH>N is different from Churchill and Direct Line.  Trying to make these real differences apparent, and to make sure they’re perceived positively, strikes me as a worthwhile undertaking. 

But at a brand level, I don’t think that the people right at the very top, who are responsible for running the High Street operations of Barclays, NatWest, Lloyds TSB and HSBC, have any serious intention of making any of their banks different in any identifiable way from any of the others.  And if I’m right about that, isn’t it time that the marketing, branding and advertising stopped wasting quite so much time and money pointlessly and unachievably pretending otherwise?

How does yours compare to other people’s?

Your what?  Your car?  Your house?  Your job?  Your salary?  Your sex life?  Your weight?  Your holiday plans?  Your politics?  In almost every part of our lives, we have a pretty good sense of how we compare with other people.  In many areas, we can see for ourselves.  Others are subjects of conversation with our friends and families.  Others are covered by the media – in opinion polls, in-depth reports and shock exposes.

Some people become obsessed by comparisons, their lives turning into grim struggles to outperform.  Most don’t – they just use the information, often more or less unconsciously, to tune their own behaviour.  I notice that people like me don’t seem to wear shirts like that.  Holiday destination A seems to be full of people like me and my family, while destination B seems to appeal to people who are at least a generation younger and largely of different sexual orientation. 

And of course as a child of the sixties I should remember that people may consume information like this precisely in order to rebel against it.  Since people like me don’t seem to wear shirts like that, I will.  And guess what, kids, this year we’re all going to holiday destination B.

But how many areas of life can you think of where there is still little or no comparative information at all – where you’re doing what you do more or less completely unaware of what anyone else is doing, and whether you’re doing more, less or about the same?

One of the very few is retirement planning.  With the big notable exception of property investments, which are a) very visible and b) considered interesting enough to be talked about at dinner parties, what people are doing financially to plan for retirement is invisible in daily life, too boring to be talked about at dinner parties and covered in the media only in the unreadably dull personal finance sections, which in any case consist largely of dishonest puffery designed to help advertisers. 

As a result, people have very little sense of how they’re doing.  Sure, there may be a financial adviser somewhere on the scene tutting and clucking about underfunding, but that’s just commission hunger.  If many of our choices are shaped by what we think other people are choosing, this is one reason why choices in this area are so hard to make – and, as a result, why so many of us make hardly any choices at all.

If we really are going to emerge into an age in which people are going to take personal responsibility for their long-term financial security, then I think that this sort of comparative framework – which we take for granted in almost every other area – is an essential requirement.

It could develop in a number of different ways.  People could spontaneously start talking about their pensions in pubs and at dinner parties.  The media could start covering personal finance interestingly and involvingly.  But there is a much quicker, easier and generally more plausible possibility.  By definition, anyone involved in providing or advising on pension and other retirement planning products must have a pool of data about what their customers are doing, and could use this data as a benchmark both in their regular reporting to their existing customers, and in their marketing activities.

I’ve paid tribute many times to what I still think of as by far the smartest and most compelling financial mailshot I’ve ever received – a smple letter from an IFA specialising in the advertising and marketing services sector, offering to show me some statistics he’d compiled about his client base, and starting with the briliant lead-in line Are Other Creative Directors Earning More Than You?

That wasn’t specifically about retirement planning (although in fact his presentation naturally had a great deal to say about all kinds of employee benefits) but the same principle applies:  the reason that 46 of the 50 people he mailed wanted to see his presentation was that it cast some invaluable comparative light on a subject that remains shrouded in darkness.

Overall, I’m still amazed by how little the industry has done to adapt to this new world of individual responsibility.  If you imagine a scale of 1 to 10 to represent the journey from old-style paternalism to trendy risk-devolution, I’d say that right now, coming up towards the ten-year mark, we’re somewhere around 1.006.

Helping customers to feel a bit less alone in this complex, alarming and potentially dangerous landscape might help us nudge our way along towards 2.

Back and brown. Well, beige.

Three weeks of hols passed in a twinkling of an oeil, and here I am back and beige. 

 I love being in our rural corner of southwest France, and I yield to no-one in my enthusiasm for many things French.  But at the same time, I refuse to disable my critical faculties altogether, and I feel I need to share with you the important observation that the French aren’t by any means good at everything.

Just to take a small handful of examples of things the French are bad at:

-  Bread.  French bread:  what’s that about?  Makes your gums bleed and becomes inedibly stale in four hours.  And ever tried getting a wholemean loaf in France?  True, these days, in the boulangerie, there are a few loaves that don’t look much like your regular French loaf.  But it’s misleading.  Different shape, same gum damage.

-  Apples.  “French Golden Delicious” – a perfect example of a phrase which can be described as “decreasingly true.”

-  Graphic design.  A real biggy.  How could the country that brought us Mucha, Toulouse Lautrec and all those classic roadside Dubonnet and St Raphael posters have fallen so far from grace?  Look at the graphics on lorries, shops, offices, depots, factories:  hideous, hideous hideous.  If there is a fast-food chain more repellent-looking than Buffalo Grill, please tell me how I can avoid it. 

-  Rock music.  Have you ever heard Johnny Halliday?

-  Milk.  98% ghastly UHT.  Cream 100% ghastly UHT.

-  Things that aren’t French.  Sometimes hard to spot this.  But look at that display of 100 cheeses, or 1000 wines, and ask yourself how many aren’t French.  Maybe some feta and some gruyere, and possibly a bottle of port.

-  Newspapers.  Insomnia cures, all of them.

-  Financial services advertising and marketing.  Fellow-toilers at the financial coleface, if ever you feel the need for a boost to your self-esteem, just hop across the channel.  Your worst idea would be the best thing that had ever appeared there.  Even investment funds advertising would look elegant and intelligent compared to their FS stuff.  If we still haven’t advanced all that far up the evolutionary chain, they’re still whatever came just before primordial ooze.

Just sour grapes because I wish I was still there and still on holiday?  Too right.