By Lauren Peters
We’ve all been there. Belting the lyrics to ‘Mr Brightside’ whilst fist pump pogo dancing on one of the many carpeted floors of Oceana at 2am on a Saturday night. For those of you still caught up in this hideous phase, I have a suggestion. Just off Broadway Market in Hackney sits an intimate underground jazz cave cum living room which, despite the description, doesn’t feel at all pretentious. It’s called Kansas Smitty’s and it’s amazing. It’s also free.
Myself and a group of friends arrived during the interval which allowed us to bag front row seats from a group who’d clearly left to buy some drinks at the bar (sorry not sorry); and when I say front row, I mean in front of the front, touching skin with the bass guitarist front.
To look at, the band were a bit all over the place. You had a sort of young Gareth Malone on drums, Yoda’s Icelandic doppelgänger on guitar and a few others without obvious reference. But when they came together they fed off each others subtle interactions and spontaneity with Whiplash-like intensity, producing sensual sounds and rhythms reminiscent of the 1930s. If there was ever a time to light a cigar and pour myself an ice-cold bourbon it was now. Pity I hate both.
The star for me though had to be lead singer Judi Jackson. She was a cross between Amy Winehouse and Rebecca Ferguson off the X-Factor before the X-Factor made her crap. There’s no denying she was rocked on a cocktail of [insert drugs here] but that was besides the point. She stood there in in her low back black velvet dress, knee-high leather boots and bright red lipstick, eyes shut, body pulsating, limbs spiralling in sync with the melody, and absolutely owning it with her raspy vocals, inviting everyone in the room to join whatever transcendent experience she was going through.
‘The truth is that the fullness of the soul can sometimes overflow in the utter vapidity of language’ (Gustave Flaubert). In other words, the greater something is, the harder it is to describe, and so posed with the task of attempting to articulate how incredible the performance was, I have to be honest, I’m struggling for words. Here is a little recording to give you an idea (listen out for my hand clap acting as a human metronome!) https://youtu.be/imfTc31kGuk
- Set the scene. If the same band were to play in Lidl the atmosphere would be completely different. As creatives, we must think about what it is we want to say and where best to say it so that our communication makes sense in context. If it doesn’t feel authentic, nobody will believe you.
- Take the audience on a journey. Although there were no breaks between songs, the musicians made it clear when to lean in, sit back, clap and cheer. Each phase made sense on its own and as part of a whole. This is exactly what is required of a campaign that spans multiple channels. Each execution must tell its own unique story whilst also making sense within a wider narrative.
- Know when it’s appropriate and commit. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line in advertising: Funny or crass? Provocative or offensive? Professional or lifeless? There are very few scenarios in which Judi’s outfit would be deemed socially acceptable. But she found one, committed, and had everyone wishing they wore the same. The same goes for us. We must trust our instinct and act on it.
- Immerse yourself in all things ‘X’. It’s easy to forget how hard improv is. I remember having to improvise as part of my flute exam and I hated it. Point being, these guys don’t get good overnight. They work hard at working harder to outperform those working even harder by surrounding themselves with influential musicians and sounds that inspire and drive them. Needless to say, we should be doing the same. If you want to be the best copywriter you have to read more, write more, talk more to the power of more. The same goes for art directors. It’s hard. Of course. But it’s obvious.
- Own it. If you’re not selling, no-one’s buying. Simple.