Hello, who just joined Ellisism

On May 13, 2014, in I wish I thought of this, by John Ellis

Me and my dog feel you need to see and hear this

We’ll be here, on mute, if you need us.

We’ve all been here. Nuff said.

The @Work State of Mind

On November 1, 2012, in Agency life, by John Ellis

I’ve been searching for some good story-telling techiques and came across this example from the idea shop Gyro. You can learn more about them here.


A collaborative marketing research and development project led by gyro, the global ideas shop. The @Work State of Mind means that most global business decision makers are on, irrespective of time or location. Reaching them successfully requires an understanding of more than how they blur the lines between work and personal. It’s imperative to understand their motivations, emotional attitudes and levels of satisfaction with round-the-clock, all-device messaging.



Who approved this?

On June 26, 2012, in Agency life, Copywriting tips, by John Ellis

I was working with my favourite chisel on the weekend. It was made in Sheffield England, where of course you know, they do make fine cutting instruments.

I’ve taken great care to keep my chisel sharpened over the years and I always return it to its original packaging when I’ve finished using it.

I’ve never read the copy on the plastic sheath that protects my chisel from the other tools in the box because I think chisels are self-explanatory.

However, this weekend I did notice that the Footprint Tools company had added three benefit points on the outside of the sleeve, in three languages.

As you can see, I should have faith in my chisel for these three reasons:

Impact Resistant Handle

Professional Quality

Made in Sheffield 

Impact resistant handle? This is the first benefit?

It’s a chisel. Why would the handle be anything but “impact resistant”? It’s only job is to get hit on the head by hammers. Maybe it’s a little thing but little things make all the difference. I would have lead with Made in Sheffield and followed with something about the strength of the steel or that it was forged by Hobbits in Middle Earth – anything but impact resistant. Yikes.


Top ten countries for work/life balance.

On June 7, 2011, in Good reads, by John Ellis

Having worked as a full-time employee, freelance writer and unpublished novelist I’ve always struggled with balance. I still feel guilty about devoting time to art when I should be doing more responsible things. But then the feeling passes and I crank out a short story, add a chapter to my latest novel or doodle dark humour.

This article caught my eye and I think it’s worth sharing. Credit to Daily Brew. You can read the entire article on their blog.

The top ten countries with the best work-life balance:

1. Denmark
2. Norway
3. Netherlands
4. Finland
5. Belgium
6. Switzerland
7. Sweden
8. Germany
9. Portugal
10. France

Canada was ranked 14th.

The Great White North has a high female-employment rate, at 76 per cent, compared to the average of 64 per cent. Seventy-one per cent of mothers return to work once their children begin school. And while Canada performed well in a number of family indicators — fertility rates, gender pay gaps, child poverty and children’s educational achievement — childcare enrolment lags behind OECD standards.

A wonderful first novel by Joshua Ferris.

‘Then We Came to an End’ has been out for a few years but its bullseye wit has not gone out of fashion. Anyone who has spent time in an advertising agency will laugh, cry or both. You’ll love it or hate it.

Here’s a little bit from the New York Times review when the book launched. You can read the entire content here.

It is a brave author who embeds the rationale for writing his novel into the novel itself. But 70 pages into Joshua Ferris’s first novel, set in a white-collar office, we meet Hank Neary, an advertising copywriter writing his first novel, set in a white-collar office. Ferris has the good sense to make Neary’s earnest project seem slightly ridiculous. Neary describes his book as “small and angry.” His co-workers tactfully suggest more appealing topics. He rejects them. “The fact that we spend most of our lives at work, that interests me,” he says. “A small, angry book about work,” his colleagues think. “There was a fun read on the beach.”

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I proofread and approve a lot of work created in haste, by people who have to deal with hundreds of emails and IMs as they work. On the light side, it’s job security. Little mistakes are everywhere.

But when people get killed (for reals) it’s time to shake our heads and admit that this shit doesn’t work. There is an article in the New York Times titled, ‘Multitasking In War Has Its Perils‘. A bunch of guys, distracted by monitoring “the drone’s video feeds while participating in dozens of instant-messages and radio exchanges with intelligence analysts and troops on the ground” flew their drone toward a crowd (the wrong crowd apparently) and blew up 23 Afghan civilians.

Multitasking is a myth. Look it up.

I promise the next post will be a happy one.

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Creative briefs that get results.

On January 21, 2011, in Agency life, by John Ellis

Ambiguity is a luxury afforded (and abused) to most professionals in the middle ranks of communication management. But the writer is not welcome at this buffet of non-committal lingo.

The writer cannot reconcile real-world contradictions in a brief that was approved for its balance of retail and brand messaging. The writer can’t simultaneously push the buttons of two people with nothing in common. Nor can the writer achieve a 60/40 split between “security and convenience” messaging.

The greater writer must commit. No sort-ofs. No kinda-likes. No bit-of-this and bit-of-that.

If the ad is ambiguous, there’s a good chance the brief was written to get approved, not to get results.

If it’s results you want, fall back to basics: Find the one thing you want to say. Commit to that one thing. Then ask your writer to find a truly inspirational way to say it.

That’s all there is to that circus.

Scratch that. Fear of alienation WILL kill your content. Fear of alienating the masses is an emotion that causes a lot of teams to weaken their messages by overruling the copy choices that make content relevant, interesting and persuasive.

The old adage is still true: People read what interests them.

The editors of great publications (online and in print) such as The Atlantic, Wired Magazine, Harper’s Magazine and Harvard Business Review, to name a few, stick to their guns. They respect the knowledge level and sophistication of their audiences. They use big words and complicated terminology because they know their audience can keep up.

Interested readers don’t fear or reject words and concepts that exceed their level. They expect good content to challenge their thinking and introduce new ideas. If they have to look up a word or dive deeper into a subject, you’ve done your job. You’ve engaged them. They’ll thank you for not treating them like idiots.

Here are the tell-tale signs that your winning campaign is being ambushed by fear of alienation.

It’s funny but customers wont’ get it.

We understand it but customers won’t.

People do not understand the big words.

This is ridiculous.

I came across the expression “no-assembly-required, batteries included idea” in Tom Wolfe‘s latest novel, ‘A Man in Full’. Now, I’m obsessed with the idea and plan to revisit it on Ellisism, often.

Here’s my first attempt to put this into practice: Creative teams love a brief that they can use straight away. They open the box and begin to play. They don’t want to “see the website” or go to a server for more information. And they don’t want to summarize the research spread across a half dozen conflicting reports. They expect that work to be done by account managers and planners. And that’s fair.

The no-assembly-required brief comes ready to use. Ideas have already been connected. The logic already works. Someone has taken the time to figure out what has to be said. All that remains is figuring out the best way to say it.That’s what creative teams do best.

The opposite of the no-assembly-required brief is the Swedish-furniture model. This approach dumps a pile of crap and an allen key on people who didn’t train to be nimble-fingered assembly workers.

If you want your teams to do their best work, give them something they can work with. Give them a short, tight brief with everything they need to create relevant, engaging creative. Don’t send them to the store for batteries. They might not come back.