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The Shortest Word.

9 Nov


That’s it for now. I am resigning this blog to make time for a couple of projects that are very important to me. One of them is the Thanksgiving conversation I recently began under the pseudonym I have traditionally reserved for my solo music, Quail State. The other is a novel entitled Volcanic Hazards of Auckland, which will be released early next year to accompany the upcoming Quail State album of the same name.

This coincides with my move to Melbourne, Australia – and my new job at Leo Burnett Melbourne.

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to The Shortest Word over the years, and especially to those who were keen enough to comment. Even you, Spam Bots. Goodbye for now. I hope we can work together again some time in the future.



Ain’t nothin’ like a catch phrase.

3 Oct




Which is what’s great about this piece of election advertising from Canada. Swearing may be cool with the kids. But simplicity is cool with everyone.

The corportate gentrification of Britomart and the working man’s beer.

28 Sep

New Zealand is experiencing a rebirth. So far it has been concentrated here in Auckland, where the Britomart development seems to be spreading like the Early Roman Empire. It’s a distinctive style – a look and feel born of design agency, Shine. A look and feel that has been emulated by everybody since.

For the most part, it’s good. Auckland is looking better than ever. You’re never far from a half-decent cafe with a funky fit-out. The new retail spaces are quirky, but slick. Pop-up spaces are popping up, and interesting things are popping into them.

I remember the first time I visited Shaky Isles in Kingsland – the first of Shine’s interior projects. It felt great, special, like nowhere else in town. I remember wishing that more spaces in Auckland looked like that cafe. And now they do. All of them. Even the High Street fashion designers – Karen Walker, World, Kate Sylvester – have upped and moved, adopting the Britomart style in the process. The ubiquitous ‘slick and quirky’. The look and feel of New Auckland.

Premium design? I call it corporate gentrification.

And recently it’s reached the threshold where instead of making Auckland a nicer place to be, it’s making it feel conformist, devoid of spirit, actively shittier.

I feel the same way about New Zealand beer. As the craft community has risen from obscurity, mainstream brands have been attempting to take on the small guys by positioning their faux-craft beer in the premium space. The packaging? Slick and quirky premium design. All the while, the very same brands have been driving their generic lagers into the premium space to compete with Heinekin. The premium space is occupied. It’s full. There is no more room here for new entrants.

After a decade of breweries harping on about ‘premium mass-produced lager’ (as if that even exists), they’ve succeeded only in creating for themselves a competitive gridlock. A Mexican standoff. And no one is willing to back down.

My incredibly stylish cool-hunting brand genius pal Laura Ford and I have been discussing this conundrum, and what New Zealand beer brands ought to do about it. The solution is part comms, part design restoration job. It involves bringing heritage brands back to life – harking back to simpler days, when beer was cheap but hard-earned.

The working man’s beer. A lost cultural artifact in the over-gentrified Auckland City.

Here’s an American brand that is doing it well.

And as far as Auckland cafes go – I’ll stick to the usual, thanks. Mmm. Dank.

Whose job is it to name things anyway?

4 Sep

R.I.P. The Campaign Palace.

11 Jul

Responsible for some stellar work spanning four decades, including one of the most timeless commercials ever made:

Things you couldn’t script better if you tried:

9 Jul

This cute as heck Earthquake PSA from Clemenger Wellington.

We don’t care who you are, we care what you say.

7 Jul

Lovely to see a wine brand with the confidence to put its messaging – it’s mission – ahead of its brand.

Wine branding seems to exist on a sliding scale, with refined exclusivity at one end and democratic irreverence at the other. I never quite understand why wines that aren’t high-end pretend to be. Nothing stinks of cheap wine like an under-resourced attempt at premium production values.

So I’m always curious to see how brands at the affordable end of the spectrum – the ones with names you don’t recognise – go about differentiating themselves. Supermarket quality wine is, after all, a rather generic product. Aside from the tried and true wine buying tactic that is searching for the expensive bottle with the largest discount, the only reason anyone might pick up your bottle is that they like your attitude.

I like your attitude.


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