Non Fiction Advertising

When I was learning to write ads there were certain copywriters I, …well…, copied. Not well, mind you.

Amongst them were the likes of thingy Abbot, wotsisname Brignull, Neil French (unforgettable) and the Volkswagen ads of DDB - anthologised in a brilliant book I nicked from the agency I worked for that was bought by DDB.

There were others too. But one stood out for me. Indra Sinha. His work always had a particular edge. It read like sharp journalism - especially compared to the smartypants poshness of David Abott's Sainsbury's ads.

I remember an ad for the Imperial War Museum that appeared in the Design and Art Direction Annual - the red one ('87). I enlarged it from less than A5 to A3 so that I could study the text. It was written by Indra Sinha. The headline went something like this 'Somewhere in this picture 2nd Lt Heaton lies dying.' The main photograph is of no mans land, Somme, World War 1, the 16th Middlesex Regiment are retreating back to their own lines. A secondary image is of said 2nd Lt. looking barely old enough to own a cap gun, let alone command a platoon.

Think back to the period or imagine it if your weren't born. Volkswagen GTIs and Porsches were acquiring their status amongst those who were keen on acquiring status. It was the year before Wall Street the movie - which, of course, followed Wall Street the correction. Now imagine going along to the Imperial War Museum. In the period of 'Greed is Good' what would inspire you to visit a memorial to a filthy, pointless conflict, let alone help fund its upkeep?

Would you have jazzed it up? Made it sexy? Treated it with the disdain one gets for the facts in a 'low interest category'?

Indra Sinha has a gift for telling it like it is. I don't think people necessarily like to hear how it is though, do you?

Do you?

Curiously enough when the world is filled with the ironical &'knowing', the cute, contrived, conceited, confected and corny-hearing 'the truth' told in a lyrical, journalistic style it has the same effect as smelling salts.

Sinha has that talent. Reading his advertisements for the victims of Bhopal it is hard to keep reading but it is impossible to stop.

Since I drafted the start of this post I have foraged around in my boxes of books and was delighted to find the Imperial War Museum ad in a book called The CopyWriter's Bible published by D&AD. There is also a self penned how to by the man himself. He has interesting things to say and spins quite a yarn. In closing he says something important:

"As a writer your words go out into the world to millions of people and change things. It's a big responsibility. If all you care about are awards and money, you are playing for the smallest available stakes. Me? Because I know how powerful words are, I want to play for the highest stakes.I want to help shape the future."

Mr Sinha has written a book Animal's People. I shall order a copy and tell you all about it. Though maybe not how it ends.


  1. Thanks again for your write up of a few years ago. I was looking today for The Copy Book, as I have to write a piece for the new updated one and couldn't find it, nor remember accurately the last para. I googled in the faint hope that someone might have preserved it, and lo, I find it on your blog. all good wishes, Indra


Post a Comment

Popular Posts