Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Advertising

Sunday October 08 2017

Yes.  I ran it by Adriana plus her Plus One (Perry de H), at that feast I reported on yesterday, and it turns out that I’m not the only one who finds the phrase “self storage” …

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… to be rather odd.  (That’s this.)

I know what self storage is.  It’s the name given to the process of ridding your self of some of the crap by which your self is currently surrounded and impeded, without actually chucking it away irrevocably.  In particular, when your self is in between locations, or when your self has moved from a big place to a smaller place, your stuff, or your excess stuff, needs to be stored somewhere.

But self storage, taken literally, sounds like you are parking your self in a warehouse and for the duration, your life will consist only of all the extraneous crap.

You become like a zombie or something.  I can understand people wanting to put their mere selves to one side while earning a living.  That might make a rather profitable business.  But while actually, you know, … trying to live … ?

Odd.

Tuesday September 26 2017

A day or two ago I got an email from someone or something selling greetings cards, claiming that my birthday, September 26th, is the most popular birthday there is.  Today, which is September 26th, the same email with only small adaptations bombarded me again.

The thing about modern individually targetted advertising - emails, adverts that pop up on your computer screen, that kind of thing – is that you don’t trust them.  For instance, what if some know-a-lot computer happens to know that my birthday is September 26th, as many such computers surely do, and thinks that it will get a rise out of me by typing September 26th into its mass-email about what date the most popular birthday is?

So I asked the www, parts of which I do somewhat trust, and according to this Daily Telegraph piece from December 2015, it’s true.  The Daily Telegraph these days is not what it was, but for what it is worth, here’s what they said:

A new analysis of 20 years of birth records by the Office for National Statistics shows a dramatic spike in the number of children born in late September, nine months after Christmas. …

Overall September 26 emerges as the most common birthday for people born in England and Wales over the last two decades.
It falls 39 weeks and two days after Christmas Day, meaning that a significant proportion of those born on that day will have been conceived on Christmas itself.

I don’t know how popular September 26th was as a birthday way back when I was biologically launched.  I’ve always thought of my parents as pretty straight-laced and careful about things like when to have children.  But, did they just get pissed on Christmas Day 1946 and start me up by mistake?  Maybe so.  (Maybe they got pissed carefully.)

Anyway, whatever, happy birthday me.

Friday September 08 2017

For all I know the sky was quite dramatic over other places too, but it was in Brixton that I saw it:

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Often, when I show photos here, they were taken days, weeks, months or even years ago.  Yesterday, there were photos that were taken ten years ago.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but: the above photos were taken earlier this evening, when I journeyed out to Brixton Curry’s PC World Carphone Warehouse or whatever the &&&&& it’s called, to try and to fail to buy a new TV.  Which means that this is topical meteorological reportage.

Click on any of the above photos if you wish, and if you do you’ll get the bigger versions.  But I actually think that the smaller versions are more dramatic, because more abstract and less of something.  Like little oil paintings.  Especially the first one.

Sunday September 03 2017

Some of the best walks in London that I have done in recent months have been alongside the River Lea.  Typically, I would start at Bromley-by-Bow tube station, go south along the A12 and then turn left along Twelvetrees Crescent until I get to the Twelvetrees Crescent bridge.  Then I’d go either north or south.

On one of these meanders, the weather was particularly bright and sunny, and before I even got to the river, while I was just walking south along the A12, photo-ops abounded.  Or maybe they didn’t but it felt as if they did.  Everything, even the most mundane of objects or lighting effects, seemed dusted by a spraycan of joy, and I can’t look at the photos I took that day without that joy colouring my feeling about the photos I took at that moment.

Photos like these:

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I can’t be objective about whether anyone else might like the above photos.  I was and remain too happy about them to be objective.  Just looking at them when I was preparing them for this posting, I became too happy to even care about being objective.

Share my joy, or not, as you please.  1.1 just tells us where we start.  1.2 is another view from the station, but not of it.  1.3 is one of those gloriously complicated drain-unblocking lorries.  2.3 I like because the colours on the car are so like the colours sported by the building, and because the sunniness of it all is emphasised by my silhouette.  In 3.2 you can just see the top of the Big Olympic Thing, an effect I always enjoy.  And 3.3 features a photo of, I do believe, the Taj Mahal. Lovely.

Not long after photoing all that, I photoed these shopping trolleys.

When I returned a day or two later to retrace my joyful steps, I photoed the excellent footbridge from the Twelvetrees Crescent bridge (one of my favourite footbridges in all of London (although maybe it’s just how good it looked that day from that spot)).  I photoed the Shard.  And I photoed a map that shows the locality where all these delights are to be found.

Friday September 01 2017

Today being the BMdotcom day for cats, and now also for other creatures, here is another creature, in this case a chicken, in an advert:

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And here, photoed by me recently, outside the Old Vic theatre, is one of these excellent machines referred to in the advert, in action:

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You can surely see what I did there, and I assure you that it was no fluke.  I waited for it to say 8.  I also have 9 and 7, because I wanted to make quite sure.  I have been photoing these excellent machines for quite a while now.

The 8build website.  They’re doing some work on the Old Vic.

On the left in the distance, nearing completion, One Blackfriars.  I find liking this Thing a bit of an effort, but I’ll get there.  I always do with such Things.  According to that (Wikipedia), One Blackfriars is nicknamed “The Vase”.  I smell, although I have no evidence for this, an attempt at preemptive nicknaming, by the people who built this Thing.  “We’ll call it The Vase, to stop London calling it something worse.” That’s what happened with The Shard, after all.  And that name stuck.

I tried to make the title of this “8”, but apparently a number with no letters is not allowed.

Monday August 28 2017

I like to photo buses with adverts all over them.  I consider the elaborate graphics involved to be of aesthetic interest.

Buses like this one, photoed in Tottenham Court Road on the same afternoon, just over a year ago, that I photoed the dfs Union Jack door that I just added to the posting below:

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Okay very pretty, but do what I did.  Take a closer look:

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What intrigues me about that is how it points up the contrasting reputations of the Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie.  The Gherkin is clearly visible there.  But the Walkie Talkie is deranged by that clutch of ventilation holes, or whatever they are.  The advertising classes don’t do things like this by accident.  They like Lord Foster of Gherkin, but they do not like Rafael Vinoly of Walkie Talkie, and the same probably applies to most other people who know both of these Starchitects.  (I like both of them.) My sense is that Vinoly is reckoned to be too much the entrepreneur, too much the profit maximising businessman, too bothered with making buildings that make money, the way (so I hear it) the Walkie Talkie does and the Gherkin does not.  Vinoly, I surmise, is the Richart Seifert of our time, but on a global scale.

This is not the kind of thing you can prove very easily, and maybe I’m reading too much into a meaningless piece of graphics.

Well, I’m tired, I’ve had a complicated day attempting other things, unsuccessfully, and this is what you are getting.  Also, there’s a really good test match going on.

Saturday August 12 2017

Yesterday, GodDaughter 1’s Dad rang up and said would I like to come with him to see a cricket match between our old school, Marlborough, and its ancient and deadly rival, Rugby, at Lord’s.  It was today.  I said yes.  Here’s a poster I photoed outside the ground that plugged the event: 

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This fixture used once upon a time to happen every year at Lord’s, but this was a one-off, to celebrate Rugby’s 450th birthday.

It was a great game.  Here, photoed from the electronic scoreboarda, are the scores that each side made:

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From these two photos alone, your dedicated cricket fan would be able to deduce that this was a fifty overs each way game of embarrassing collapses and big stands, which swung back and forth all day.

I don’t know if they had a Man of the Match award, but if they did, then the two contenders would have been Read and West.  Marlborough were 8 for 3, and then, after a stand, they faltered again, to 110 for 6.  But then Read and West got stuck in and batted right through.  Read’s hitting at the end of the Marlborough innings was amazing.  West also batted superbly, and then his bowling destroyed the Rugby top order, It was Rugby’s turn to look like they were going to be crushed embarrassingly.  But they too then had a big stand, This wasn’t quite enough because just when it needed to carry on to the end, Marlborough managed to put a stop to it.  But it made a great game of it.

This graphic was probably prepared before the game for the scoreboard to show at the end of the game, but it was well deserved:

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If only I had taken any photos of the action that were half as informative as all this verbal and numerical information.  But when it came to choosing which photos would sum it all up, these seemed the best.  I did take a few photos that weren’t of signage.  I even saw a few Big Things from afar.  So, more about that later, maybe, I promise nothing.

Thursday July 20 2017

I like her:

Harmanpreet Kaur lives and swears by her idol Virender Sehwag’s mantra of ‘see ball, hit ball.’ She represents the new-age India women’s cricketer, part of a generation that has been at the center of ad campaigns, endorsements and central contracts. She’s a path-breaker too, having become the first India cricketer - male or female - to sign a Big Bash League contract with Sydney Thunder in Australia. The deal came about on the back of an impressive showing during India’s tour of Australia in January 2016, where she made a 31-ball 46 to script India’s highest-ever T20 chase. In June 2017, she became the first Indian to sign with Surrey Stars in ECB’s Kia Super League.

And I liked her before I got to the bit about her joining Surrey.

Harmanpreet Kaur will be attracting a lot more attention from now on, because today she scored 171 not out off 115 balls against Australia.  See ball hit ball indeed.  Whether India’s 281-4 will be enough to get them to the final of the ladies World Cup remains, at the time of this posting, to be seen.

Already in the final are England, featuring Natalie Sciver (pronounced “Sivver"), scorer of two centuries in the tournament already, also of Surrey, and an early adopter of a new batting shot now named after her, the Natmeg.

LATER: The Australian chase began disastrously, and although from three down onwards they never stopped swinging they fell just a bit short, losing by 36.

BBC:

It’s been a thrilling tournament - and with a sold-out Lord’s final to come on Sunday, it’s no exaggeration to say that with the interest from the Indian market, we will be looking at the biggest game in the history of women’s cricket.

For me, the moment when women’s cricket stopped being ridiculous was when they stopped wearing skirts.  Skirts and pads was not a good look.

Wednesday July 19 2017

The internet has worked out that I am interested in the Samsung S24F356 Full HD 24” LED computer screen, and is bombarding me with adverts for it:

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Click on that to learn more.

Sunday July 16 2017

I loved the latest cars when I was a kid, and I still love the latest cars when I was a kid.  I loved theose cars then and I love them still, more and more, as both they and I get older.

Cars like this:

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Which I photoed late in the afternoon yesterday.  I often visit Lower Marsh late in the afternoon on a Saturday, and once again, the above classic car made realise that yesterday was the third Saturday of this month, the day when the classic cars gather in Lower Marsh, from midday until middle-to-late afternoon.  By the time I was there, this and one other car were the only ones still lingering.  Memo to self, get there at 12 noon next time around.

So if I type in all the third Saturdays of the month for the next few months, helpfully listed here, maybe, on one of these dates, I’ll get there in time to see the real show, instead of just the odd late leaver.

August 19th
September 16th
October 21st
November 18th
December 16th

As I say, there was one other classic car hanging around in Lower Marsh when I got there.

This:

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The point here being that while this Morris Minor Van is an amazingly well preserved classic vehicle, Pimlico Pumbers is an impeccably modern enterprise.

Like I say, they don’t use this van to do plumbing call outs.  It would appear to be a piece of artistic sponsorship:

We also have an unregistered 1966 Morris Minor LCV with only 67 miles on the clock. We purchased it in 1995 in primer paint and have since restored this classic model to its former glory and it now sports Pimlico’s blue and white livery. We have never taken it on the road to ensure that it stays in its original condition. Ted Connolly, Editor of Classic Van and Pick-up Magazine described this van as a museum piece.

But given that this vehicle does show up at classic car gatherings, I’m guessing this is a pretty good piece of business.

Wednesday July 12 2017

Everything involving computers is easy if you know how to do it and you do it often.  Everything involving computers is hard, if you only want to do it very occasionally, and if you don’t know (or don’t remember (which comes to the same thing)) how to do it.  Words like “intuitive” and “user friendly” are thrown about a lot when people like me say things like this, but they are bullshit.  It’s either very easy, or nearly impossible.  “User friendly” just means being presented with an incomprehensible lump of informational overload, in prettier letters and prettier colours and more prettily designed.

Why are computer things hard?  It is because computers can do so many things.  This means that whenever you are trying to persuade your particular computer to do something in particular, that it doesn’t usually do, you have to thread your way through a multi-page questionnaire, in the course of which you tell it: no, I don’t what that, or that, or that.  I want this.  And at any point in this Q&A obstacle course, you may find yourself confronted by a page of things to pick from none of which seem to have anything to do with what you are trying to tell the damn computer to do.

In the Army, I believe, they used to (and perhaps still do) call this: dumb insolence.  Dumb insolence is the offence of taking every word in the orders you have been given with extreme literalness and just waiting, dumbly insolent, to be given different orders, and meanwhile carrying on with what you had been dumbly and insolently doing, even though you know (because of the shouting) that this is not what is really wanted.  You shout at the computer to just use a bit of common sense.  I want this, you moronic machine.  Nothing.  Just the same old screen, and if you click on any of it, you get another page of irrelevance, or perhaps the right page but the exact same dilemma.  None of it seems to have anything to do with what you want it to do.

The fact that the more computers can do, the more there need to be people around who know how to tell the computers to do whatever very particular thing is actually required, rather than all the other things that the computer is now capable of doing, bodes extremely well for the employability of humans in the months and years and decades to come.  But meanwhile, if you happen not to know how to get the computer to do what you want, you can only hope and pray that at some future moment, the answer will drop into your lap.  Someone will tell you.  Your computer will suddenly, out of the blue, volunteer something relevant.  Or, it has been so volunteering all along, but because of all the other garbage it was also volunteering, you didn’t notice, but then, miraculously, you do notice, and bingo.

What brought all this on?  Well, my computer recently had some attention from the Guru and also some upgrades, and in among all this the computer changed its way of opening photos, which for me is a big deal.  I open a lot of photos from my archives, in fact I do this every time I am doing a quota photo posting, which is a lot, and when I do this I am usually in a hurry.  So, just when I really don’t need my computer to be misbehaving, it has been misbehaving.  The problem has been that instead of using “Windows Photo Viewer” to show me a photo that I click on, it instead decided to use something called “Photos”.  Quite different and lacking one crucial ability, which is the ability to take me from a photo up on my screen in “Photos” to the directory the photo is in.  “Windows Photo Viewer” can do this.  “Photos” can’t, or not in any way I know how to make it do that isn’t immensely complicated, every time.

How to correct this?  For about a week I couldn’t.  The internet, as so often, was no help at all.  It said that this was easy if blah blah, but if blah blah blah bah, then contriving the answer I wanted was really difficult and involved blah blah blah blah blahdy blah blah blahdy blah.  If you get my meaning.  (Which turned out not only to be incomprehensible, but also wrong.  See next paragraph.)

And then, the answer dropped into my lap.  I saw a page I didn’t recall seeing, with a question that I hadn’t noticed before.  I was allowed the option of opening a photo “with” a different programme.  But then crucially, I was also presented, in a way that I either hadn’t been shown before or that I hadn’t noticed before, with the option to put a tick in a box saying: always open the photo with this progranne that you have just chosen to switch to.  Problem solved.  My computer now opens photos, just as it always did, with Windows Photo Viewer, unless otherwise instructed.  Which I now know how to do, but will soon forget.  Which won’t matter.

The idea that computers are getting steadily more “smart” is a half truth.  Yes, they can do steadily more and more with each passing year.  But the more they know how to do, the stupider they get at actually doing it for you.

And oh look.  Just before posting the above, I was checking out an SD card that I used in my camera today, having forgotten to put my regular SD card back in it.  And this irregular SD card turned out to have a bunch of photos on it that I took in the summer of 2014, in France.  And it turns out that the French also have something that sounds to me a lot like Dumb Insolence, although I think it’s more like “polite rudeness” than that in your face deadpan British sneer.  You decide:

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Whatever the exact translation, I bet this “douce insolence” is how French personal computers behave, when you a trying to make them do something new, and they just won’t be told.

For some reason, that was on the front window of a shop, called “Agatha”, in the Rue Gustave Thomas de Closmadeuc, in the town of Vannes, on the south coast of Brittany. A perfume perhaps?

Thursday June 01 2017

Should a tube map look like this, which shows the real places and distances of everything, but is confusing, especially if you are looking at the middle …

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… ?

Or like this, which is the usual way you see tube maps, all designed, with inner suburban distances shortened, to make everything more clear, especially in the crowded middle …

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… ?

Answer, do the map as a .gif and show both, morphing into each other.

Now that TV screens for advertising are becoming ubiquitous at tube stations, seemingly costing hardly any more than paper of the same size (changed by hand from time to time), why not have TV screens at tube stations with .gifs like this on show?  Maybe you could have buttons on them, so individual viewers could switch from one to the other in their own time?  Would this cause arguments between rival viewers?  Revised suggestion: Have three displays on one screen: on the left, real distances; .gif in the middle; “designed” on the right.

Tuesday May 23 2017

Yesterday was predicted to be a good photoing day, so I photoed.  A lot.  But I was too tired yesterday evening to think much about what to show you from earlier in the day, and am tired now.  But here is one photo I took yesterday, on Westminster Bridge:

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I don’t know whether this guy was happy, or merely surviving.  At least some of the former, I hope.

There were quite a few of these tricycle people-transporters parked in a row on Westminster Bridge.  I have not seen such vehicles in this place before.

That shadow, bottom left, is me.

If you fancy following up on this advert, the bad news is: it happened five years ago.  Is someone being ironic?

Friday May 19 2017

Recently, inspired by those Barcelona Graphics, I had another trawl through all the photos I took in 2005 when I visited Barcelona.

And guess what, here are a few of the photos I took, of photoers:

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Part of why I did this posting is that I just like how a square of squares looks, and I wanted to do another such posting, regardless of what the photos were of.

But now that I’ve done this particular square of squares, I am struck by how interested I was, even then, in taking photos of photoers that hid their faces.  I think this preoccupation was sharpened by me being on the Continent, and fearing that photoing people’s actual faces and putting them on my blog might break some kind of Euro-law.  They make more of a fuss about privacy over there, don’t they?  Such was then, and still is, my impression.  And now, of course, I apply the same attitude over here, because: face recognition software.

Also, note in particular photo 2.3, where you can see further evidence of Barcelona’s eagerness to advertise itself with its Big Things.

The light in Barcelona was great, and lots of my photos there came out really well.  Which is why I had so many photos of photoers, and of everything else I photoed with any enthusiasm.

Most of the cameras to be seen here are now historical relics, replaced by mobile phones.  Phones with cameras arrived (and oh look another square of squares (this time 5x5)) in 2006.  This was 2005.

Saturday May 13 2017

I can’t remember how I came across the blog Sleepless in Barcelona.  But I did, and was intrigued that, like London, it seems that Barcelona likes to advertise itself with an assemblage of its most recognisable buildings:

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I visited Barcelona in 2005 (I got the date from this posting), and I remember thinking then that, like London, Barcelona was an obvious candidate for this sort of graphic promotion.  Like London, it used to have an upper limit to the height of its buildings - caused by religiously motivated legal restrictions, perhaps?  But now, whatever those height limitations were, they had been overcome or set aside, and the occasional bigger building was sprouting up, in the new “recognisable”, “iconic” style.  Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia used to dominate the city in splendid isolation, the way St Paul’s Cathedral used to dominate the City of London, but for a while now, other, secular Big Things have being permitted.

More Barcelona graphic assemblages here, and in lots of other www spots too, if google images ("Barcelona skyline") is anything to go by.

Here is another such piece of graphic promotion, this time more colourful:

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Just as with London, and with quite a lot of other cities, two of the key breakthrough modern Big Things were telecoms towers.  Montjuïc Communications Tower and the Torre de Collserola.  Both are to be seen on the left side of the above graphic.  I remember noticing both of those very dramatic buildings when I was there, but I also vaguely remember failing to photo them at all successfully.  My camera didn’t have anything like the zoom that my current one does.

Maybe I should pay Barcelona another visit.

Telecoms towers have a typically rather unacknowledged place in the history of modern architecture.  Dating as many of them do from the concrete monstrosity era, they proved, with their popularity and their popularity in particular with picture postcard sellers, that the public vastly preferred amusingly shaped buildings to the usual concrete monstrosities of the boringly rectangular sort.  This caused the Big Thing style to erupt quite a bit earlier than it might otherwise have done.