I was delighted with Barak Obama’s inauguration speech, which everyone in the agency seemed to watch, either on live feeds at their desks, or on the TV in the lobby, so that the sound of his voice echoed through the building and the whole thing was like the final moments of a Jerry Bruckheimer film but without all the fire and broken glass. I don’t doubt that it will have smashed all records for online viewing, even viewing generally. There’s something compelling about watching Obama, which is not wholly unconnected to a desire to be there, watching, when he gets shot - not to be confused with a desire for him to be shot btw. That he hasn’t been so far is either a testament to the efficacy of the American secret services (or their inefficiency, depending which side of the knoll you're on), or the fact that the media is lying to us nearly all the time, and that there are far, far fewer sociopaths out there than we are taught to think.
His speech-writer is 27 and writes in Starbucks, jacked up on a triple shot lattes. Interestingly he is an avid reader of Obama, carrying his autobiography around with him, internalising his speech patterns, mastering his voice. I believe this is necessary in order to establish the felt meaning of words, the extraordinary impression that Obama gives of "really meaning it", is also the reason that Bob Dylan’s songs sound good, even though he can’t, by any normal criteria, actually sing. The speech was low on soundbites, almost self-consciously low on them, but then if you’re competing with “we have nothing to fear except fear itself”, “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” you probably don’t want to go with the lines you’ve got that are only ok. It was still a writer’s speech though, Obama is one too remember, and it’s perhaps because of this that he's such a good politician. Cynicism breeds in the gap between what politicians do and what they say, the misuse of language degrades its working parts. Non-writers think that words hide the truth, and what you end up with a jumble of nu-speak that, like Orwell says, is designed not to communicate but to obscure what is really going on. It doesn't really fool anyone, they just feel increasingly patronized and powerless. So when Obama says:
But those values upon which our success depends – hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old. These things are true.
He’s trying to nail the meaning back onto these words.
Churchill obviously is still better (he not only ate the Germans, he also won the Nobel Prize for Literature), but Obama does make David Cameron look like he’s made from luncheon meat and PR.
Most of adland's creatives missed the inauguration, because they were too busy arguing on Scamp about the T-Mobile ad, and whether it matters or not that it is both stolen and, according to its own terms, fake. Even formulating an opinion on that one makes me want to kill myself. What I find more interesting is that it’s yet another instance of the “people doing something together/spontaneously passing an action on” meme that’s been so blatantly dominant in media for the past couple of years that even Campaign wrote a feature on it (no link, it was properly boring). I’ve had these ideas, the Art Director has them (the whole fucking time), but they’re not really an idea for your brand at all. What they are is the fantasy of your advert working really well, and everyone talking about it and passing it on and making you famous. This subconscious wish fulfillment is why it feels good having that particular idea, as though it really is an idea, and why it’s confusing for creative directors and why so many of them get through.
To those of you that took part in the COPYWRITING CONTEST. The winner is…all of you. You were all equally good - please don't take that the wrong way. Enjoy your prize, a cut-out-and-keep copy of the photograph of “Death by 1000 cuts”, as kept on the desk of George "pervy George" Bataille, for you to attach to your workstation.
(Click to enlarge - but remember, I'll know if you do)
I'm not sure if I'll be running that particular feature again. I might prefer looking for another 132 relational art installations.