Wieden + Kennedy not as good as Pixar?


Naresh Ramchandani, writing in yesterday’s Guardian, finds Wieden + Kennedy’s new ad for the Honda Civic ‘a huge disappointment’. Damn. He says it’s ‘one of the better ads on telly. But by Honda’s high standards it’s not good enough.’ 

The benchmark he’s using to judge us is a pretty high one. ‘Honda’s unprecedented ad consistency was reminiscent of Pixar’s unprecedented movie consistency.’ The Accord ‘Cog’ spot was our Toy Story, the Civic ‘Everyday’ spot was our Bug’s Life, the FRV ‘Circles’ campaign was our Finding Nemo and the diesel ‘Grrr’ spot was ‘an all-guns-blazing peak like Monsters Inc. or The Incredibles.’

Now, it’s never great to be judged wanting. But if we are going to be judged wanting, it’s flattering to be compared to Pixar, rather than, say, McCann. Now we know what we have to beat to be the best.

Naresh goes on to compare our production budgets to Pixar and remarks that ‘Pixar would never invest that production budget on a script written in four or five weeks by a couple of creatives who, excuse the parody, were probably revising a couple of radio ads for Abbey and shooting a poster for Tampax at the same time.’ I have to correct him on this misapprehension. ‘Choir’ took nearly a year’s worth of dedicated work by a large team of people. I wish we could do it quicker with fewer people – it would make the agency a hell of a lot more profitable if we could – but it doesn’t seem to work that way.

I’m also not sure that I agree with the article’s contention that the Honda campaign has given hope to old school idealists that ‘you could scrap all that (new media) nonsense and make an old-fashioned blockbuster commercial and it would still cut through the way it used to.’

We believe that the non-traditional use of media, such as inserting DVDs with the ads on into national press, circulating ads virally, using TV to drive people to web content and making films available to download online, has been key to the success of our work for Honda. They simply don’t have the budget to outshout their competition via an ‘old-fashioned blockbuster’ TV campaign. We have to create content that’s good enough for people to want to seek it out. Over 800,000 downloads of ‘Choir’ from Honda’s website (see earlier ‘Heavy Traffic’ post) suggests that this is working.

Anyway, watch out, Pixar. We may have screwed up on ‘Choir’, but we’ll get you next time.

cheryl in shanghai (part 2)


Cheryl Rogers is one of our account directors, currently on secondment to W+K Shanghai. Here’s her latest news:

I’m feeling pretty lucky to have had 2 New Year’s celebrations inside of a month and in true Chinese spirit think this must represent a very lucky and prosperous year ahead for me!

Thought I’d write an update on a few things that have been happening lately…

Chinese New Year

It didn’t go off with a bang. It went off with 18 million bangs over about 6 hours on New Year’s Eve and to get a good view we went to the highest bar in the world to watch. So from the 87th floor of the Grand Hyatt on Pudong, we did the civilized thing until the rising smoke from the city below made us go down to the water to get amongst the action. It was truly mental. A lasting roar could be heard across the city and the smoke was so intense that by the end of the night we couldn’t see 100m down the road. Fireworks aren’t done in singular here, they’re let off in boxes, put in the middle of the street that taxi drivers swerve around. Great fun.

The next day we went down to some traditional gardens in the middle of the city to put our wishes on a tree that has all its leaves painted gold. I think every Chinese person in Shanghai was also there to do the same thing!

New Year’s lasts for a week over here, so it’s fireworks every morning and night, with the 5th night being the proper fireworks night – bigger than NYE even. So the madness continues. We’ve got a few boxes to let off in our garden at work that night which should be fun. And dangerous.

Frank’s birthday

Frank Hahn is one of the creative directors here and it was his birthday two weeks ago. He’s German so we had German beer, sauerkraut, sausages and mash potatoes in the dining room one evening. We ate all of the above (not the beer) with chopsticks.

Christin’s birthday

Christin Spagnoli is over here on loan from the studio in Portland and it was her birthday on Friday, we dressed up her desk in pink fur for the day and made sure she had some cupcakes for a taste of home. She said it made her feel just like Elle Woods.

Interesting things/ Not-so-interesting things

This year is Year of the Dog. If your sign is the dog you must own and wear at least one piece of red underwear this year. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, and their order in the calendar was decided by a race amongst them to find out who was the fastest. The only animal not to get his own year was the cat, who didn’t wake up in time for the race because the rat let him sleep in and then took his place. (And that’s why cats hate rats).

Everyone eats at dumplings at New Year’s and making them is a family occasion. We have a kitchen in the office and someone came in on Friday to make us dumplings – so good. You’re supposed to eat fish on New Year’s day because they symbolize the abundance and prosperity that you’ll then receive throughout the year.

Loud noises scare off evil spirits – hence 18 million people letting off fireworks – and the person with the loudest fireworks will be the luckiest in the coming year. Can’t wait for Thursday!

Everyone’s got the week off this week so it’s just us westerners in the office. It’s like the UN in here – we’ve had people from W+K Tokyo, Portland, New York and London here in recent weeks and more recruits arrived today to help out in the studio.

It’s getting warmer and the days of -6 seem to be behind us.

After being turfed out of a taxi by a driver who couldn’t understand me, I have finally progressed to saying a few things in Chinese that can almost be understood.

Gong xi fa sai!


WK side 2.0 week 2

Way to work – Ben Everitt



Lots of people in the agency have already given up some time to talk to us about what they do and where they fit in which has been great. It’s been interesting learning all the different roles people play and how they all come together. We’re learning a lot about the agency’s philosophy towards work, advertising and the creative process, and it’s all very inspiring. We now feel we could grab anyone on the street and talk for hours about things like how important it is to find your tone of voice before you say anything, to really understand the brand you’re working for, and to continually look beyond conventional means of communicating. We’ve seen this in action this week when we got to work on a high profile pitch…a big chunk of our week was spent coming up with ideas, joining in the brainstorm sessions and seeing the work evolve. The looming deadline forced us to think on our feet and throw our ideas out there which was our first taste of how it all works, but on a short timescale. We’re also finding out through this how we can work well as a group.

Shoreditch facts

The expression ‘hand me down’ comes from second hand stalls at

Petticoat Lane

where things were hung up high so if you wanted something, someone had to reach it down for you.

I for Infallibles….

Ben Tubby has an alter ego: Mr Inf from the Infallibles Foundation….

The Infallibles Foundation are a group of rappers, producers, deejays, artists and designers from various points on the globe who have come together under one name to get creative with music, design and film. With members like Don Horta from


rhyming in Spanish, to Orange Moon and his polish tongue, the music is quite diverse with no single Infallible sound. With assistance from the likes of Allable on the video flex plus Mr Inf, TP and Hudz on the design side we have all created an outlet for our creative expression through the group.

Start listening now at http://www.infallibles.co.uk/foundation

Discoveries this week

-check out our melons-


spotted in the window of a

Brick Lane

curry restaurant.

-Sophie has a thing for Bruce Springsteen…

Exhibitions – Gilbert and George- White Cube
Hmm… If you want 5 minutes of anti-religion head to Hoxton Square. The colours are bold and garish and the pictures are huge. It seems like its only aim is to shock. We walked out feeling nothing. Nice print quality though. 



heavy traffic for honda


Just got some interesting feedback from Honda on the success of the new Civic Web site.

804,000 people watched our Civic ‘Choir’ ad ad online last week. Not bad. The viewing figures have been so high that they have needed to host the ad on a different server from the rest of their site in order to cope with demand.

You can put more pressure on Honda’s bandwidth here.


is wieden + kennedy evil?

Interesting perspective here about our Honda ads from pop musician/commentator, Momus. I was intrigued to see what he said, as I’ve liked some of his work. (I was humming ‘Hairstyle of the Devil to myself as I read his critique.) He reckons that we’re basically evil. Partly because he thinks we’re ripping off the real artists. Partly because he thinks car ads are intrinsically evil and ingenious. The source he suggests gave us the idea for Choir, Tomomi Adachi’s Royal Chorus, is completely unfamiliar to me. And the link doesn’t make the connection any clearer.

Interestingly, he says of the ‘hate something change something’ idea from our Honda diesel spot,

‘It’s almost impossible to imagine such a slogan in Japan. Japanese car ads are short, bizarre, and unfailingly cute. No surprises in that, really. But the lack of sharkiness is refreshing.’

But the ‘hate something’ idea actually came directly from the briefing by Kenichi Nagahiro, the Japanese chief engineer at Honda, who told us that his hate for diesels inspired him to make a better engine. Suggests that the paradox of positive hate could be equally relevant (or equally evil) for a Japanese audience.

debate down under

Our new Honda Civic ‘Choir’ commercial seems to have sparked some debate in New Zealand on nzcreative circle’s blog. You can read it here.

Interesting to see just how heated opinions are, on an ad that’s never even run over there. Views range from ‘one of the biggest wanks I’ve ever seen’ to ‘genius’.

Whether you think the ad is any good or not it’s great to have provoked debate. Arguably, anything that tried to be distinctive and innovative will polarise opinion. But it’s a bit sad to see people still posting comments like, ‘Full credit to the agency wankers that talked them into it.’

Are these people living in some evil parallel universe where the client is the enemy and the agency’s job is to trick them into buying indulgent vanity trips? Do they really believe we’re not here to try to give our clients the best advice we can, in a commercially accountable context? Don’t they respect the people they work with? I guess they must hate their jobs.

free books


What could be better than unexpectedly receiving two big boxes full of free books? Yesterday, we got a delivery of just that from the very nice people at Dorling Kindersley publishing. Because they thought ‘an agency of (our) creative calibre might find a DK library to be a useful resource among (our) reference material.’ Which is excellent, so we’ve added the books to the library in our Sherlock Holmes room. There’s a broad range, from a medical dictionary to a sort of ‘how to be a spy’ kit. Thanks v. much DK.

Maybe this is just the start of lots of free stuff and W+K is going to be like a star on Oscars night, inundated with free kit and goodie bags from all sorts of desirable brands. Or maybe not.

WK Side 2.0 (week one)



The first week has been full of new faces and all of them friendly ones. Everyone has been really open and helpful and it’s been good finding out what everyone gets up to round here. The office is packed full of madness, so we’ve had fun playing with fake arms and sombreros. We’ve tested out the padded cell and we like the big red booth.


We’ve been recording our movements…



This place works so well because everyone knows their job and its lovely to see relaxed but serious work underway. It’s good to feel the warmth. Everyone seems to collaborate and work together on all projects which for us means that we have people to help us at every stage and will be exposed to different processes and knowledge within the agency. Everyone is always willing to spend time to show us things and talk to us.

I There’s no ‘I’ in team.

Did You Know…

          Ben T’s favourite hula hoops are plain.

          Sophie’s mum records Neighbours for her.

          Ben E has papparazzied Madonna and Mariah Carey.

          Ben T can speak Thai ‘dee maak’.

          Barbara has synaesthesia. Apparently both Bens are dark blue and Sophie is blue-grey. If anyone wants to know what colour their name is in her head, write in. Charges apply.

Early Mornings

Wake up at 7.15 in New Cross. Arrive 9.00 at the W+K front door – Soph.

Wake up at 6.30am(!) doh. Crawl to shepherds bush. Central line to Liverpool street . . . in at 9am – Tubby.

Wake up at 6.30…live only 15 minutes away. Go figure – Barb

Wake up at  7.15 in East Dulwich. Train to London Bridge and fight to get on the Northern Line – Ben

2 do

Our challenges include:

– Making a ‘no parking’ sign fun and original.

– Creating an exciting shop window.

– Coming up with 3 murals for the oddly sized red booths.

– Ben E wants to get his bike from Lewes.

– Barbara wants to find a proper warm coat and see an exhibition a week.





Our new in-house stereo system is now in place, with speakers all over the building. This means that rather than having sound system clashes across the workspace (Creative Services’ reggae vs. the Designers’ grime) we can now have the same music playing throughout the building. Just like workers’ playtime on the old factory floor. The speakers have individually adjustable volume but don’t worry, neighbours: it doesn’t go up to 11.


We’re planning to create WK-FM, our own in-house radio station, with a mixture of music, chat and interesting stuff. At the moment it’s all music, all the time, courtesy of our friends at the Album Club. (This is an excllent service that sends you a set of albums each month, recommended by Rough Trade.)

This month’s selection, currently being broadcast coast to coast at 16 Hanbury Street, is as follows:

Porn Sword Tobacco – Explains freedom

Ambient electronica recorded in the heart of a Swedish forest.

The Strokes – First Impressions of Earth

The last album got a lot of airplay on WK stereos; this is the long-awaited follow-up.

Congotronics 2

After the explosive ‘konono no1’, the congotronics series presents 6 other astounding bands from the suburbs of Kinshasa, playing urban electronic folk on home-made instruments.

Ted Barnes – underbelly

Second solo album of intricate (mainly) instrumental songs from the beth orton collaborator, somewhere between yann tiersen, angelo badalamenti and tindersticks.

Amadou and Mariam – dimanche a bamako

amadou & mariam’s  have been together for 25 years since they met at the institute for the young blind in bamako. RThis album was produced by and featuring manu chao and recorded in the malian capital of bamako.

Various artists – dream brother: the songs of tim and jeff buckley

Cover versions of some of the best songs written by tim and jeff buckley by the likes of sufjan stevens, the earlies, the magic numbers, kathryn williams, micah p hinson, adem, and matthew herbert.

Infadels – we are not the infidels

Punky funk electroclashy stuff.

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Ballad of the Broken Seas

Debut album from former Belle & Sebastian member Isobel Campbell and former Screaming Trees and Queens Of The Stone Age lead singer Mark Lanegan.

Clap your hands say yeah – Clap your hands say yeah

Hot US indie band of the moment. A top ten selection on many of the US critics’ best album lists of last year.

Cold Cut – Sound Mirrors

A varied mix of breakbeat, hip hop, dub and any other genre that fits with a huge amount of guest vocalists including Roots Manuva, Mike Ladd and Robert Owens.