Think before you drink

Holiday over, and to kick start my return a little something to think about for any creatives who milk their muse for bottled water companies.

I’ve never drunk bottled water. For a start I never bought into the idea, pushed so aggressively by marketeers with their pictures of alpine springs, mountain peaks and healthy looking joggers, that bottled water is better for you. It’s been proven time after time: bottled water is just water. Nothing more, nothing less.


Secondly, bottled water is an incredible rip off. Depending upon the brand, it can be anything from 500 to 2000 times more expensive than tap water. This probably explains why so many companies are trying to get in on a market that’s worth between 50 and 100 billion a year and, until last year, was growing by approx 7% per annually.

I also believe that access to water is a basic human right, and by turning water into a commodity, water companies are taking ownership of an increasingly precious human resource.


Three very good reasons for avoiding buying something that twenty years ago would have been considered a ridiculous purchase. My anti bottled water stance, though, became even more pronounced after checking out the trailer for Tapped, a new documentary about the industry.

It turns out that not only is bottled water a marketing con, it’s also an environmental hazard. Tapped, traces the history of water from its snobbish Perrier roots to its current everyday pervasiveness.

Hopefully once people watch the film, they’ll remember the words often uttered when going on holiday. (When it comes to bottled), don’t drink the water.


It’s a happy holiday for Ad Lad

In case you’re wondering, no Ad Lad hasn’t disappeared for good. Just like these crazy air brushed kids, I’ve gone on a happy holiday.
When the summer ends, which could be any minute now, I’ll be back. Thanks for visiting and feel free to sing along if you know the words.

Death to apathy lit!


In the last week Iranian women have been taking to the streets and dying for the right to have their vote counted. Two weeks ago, 65 percent of eligible British men and women didn’t even bother casting theirs. In less than an hour, four million did, however, find the time to vote in the final of  Britain’s Got Talent.

What is it that makes us so pathetically apathetic when it comes to politics ?

Theories abound. People are disillusioned with politicians. The breakdown of family means there is a lack of civic education. There is less trust in established institutions.

But the one theory that strikes me as most likely is the success of materialism as a philosophy, and consequent growth of theas long as I’ve got a 42 inch Sony flat screen television, an iPhone, Armani in my wardrobe and a Fendi handbag , I don’t give a monkey’s” brigade.

Any cultural media (and advertising doesn’t fall into that category no matter how many Cannes Lions you’ve won) that promotes the idea that having lots of stuff is the road to happiness deserves, in my opinion, nothing but contempt.

That’s one reason I HATE chick lit and it’s bastard younger brother, dick lit.

Wikipedia says.

“Chick lit often features hip, stylish, career-driven female protagonists, usually in their twenties and thirties. The women featured in these novels may be obsessed with appearance or have a passion for shopping.”

Is there anything more more morally redundant than promoting conspicuous consumption as a lifestyle?

Imagine for a second if all the women who read books with characters who fight for Gucci, were reading about characters who fight for women’s rights or for the poor or for abused kids. For a start it would be an infinitely more interesting read and just maybe, some of those readers might think differently about the world, their lives and the societies they live in. They might even want to change things.

And what about the writers of these novels that glorify the art of shopping?

Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to know that your words were making the world a bit of a better place? I know you’re in it for the money, but why not use your talents to benefit your children and grandchildren too.

I wonder what the Iranian women, who read the poetry of Mirzadeh Eshghi before taking to the streets, would think of Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic or Marian Keyes’s Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married…

Would it inspire them to storm the nearest Prada store, or battle the police for a Valentino dress?

Are you a write junkie too?

junkie_uk_digit_1957_frontHaving recently discovered the shocking financial state of affairs that awaits most fiction writers, I decided to try and better understand their motivation. Clearly it’s not cash, as most of them don’t earn enough for a decent weekend out on the razz, so what is it that causes them to pound the keyboard, day in day out?

Some of the answers that I got, from writing friends and colleagues, were more predictable than others….

“the potential for prestige”

the tantalizing promise of immortality

“to create something out of nothing”

“to inspire and entertain people”

“to see if it’s possible to make something remarkable”

“to better understand myself and the world”

“to immerse myself in language and voices”

“to indulge my darker side”

“to explore different people, situations, events, places”

But the most consistent answer was that they had a compulsion, an unshakable urge to write.

So it got me thinking, is writing addictive?

The criteria for substance dependence are the presence of at least three of the following in a person. I’ve substituted the word substance for the word writing.

Number 1.

Tolerance develops, indicated by (a) larger dose of WRITING  needed to produce the desired effect, and (b) the effects of the WRITING becoming markedly less if only the usual amount is WRITTEN.

Number 2.

Withdrawal symptoms develop when the person stops WRITING or reduces the amount. The person may also use WRITING to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Number 3.

The person WRITES more or for a longer time than intended.

Number 4.

The person recognizes excessive use of WRITING, may have tried to reduce it but has been unable to do so.

Number 5.

Much of the person’s time is spent in efforts to WRITE or recover from its effects.

Number 6.

WRITING continues despite psychological or physical problems caused or made worse by WRITING.

Number 7.

Many of the activities (work, recreation, socializing) are given up or reduced in frequency because of WRITING.

Other more general features of addiction include:

“Affective contrast, this is where WRITING tends to produce an initial affective state (euphoria) which is then followed by an opposing state (dysphoria)”

“The Ability of various states (general arousal, stress, pain) to influence WRITING.”

Of the seven, I’m can yes sir to at least five. Which shouts loud and clear at me being a write junkie.

What about you? Do you go cold turkey when you don’t get your fix of fiction? Or come down if you don’t find the right noun? Or get irritable when your muse can’t sort you out? If so, maybe you’re a write junkie too.

Hang the blessed editor


Unlike Morrissey I don’t get off on rejection, but then I don’t want to blow my brains out either. Working in ad land, you get used to having your words rejected by clients whose suggestions for improvements often range from totally idiotic to plain insane. But at least they pay you. The same can’t be said of 95% of literary magazine editors.

Why is it then that so many of them treat writers like rubbish?

I’m sure you have your own reasons for wanting to hang the editor, but here are some of mine.

Number 1.

Editor, unless you’re my mate, you don’t get to call me Addy or AL or Lad or any other diminutive when you send me a rejection. I’m Ad Lad. In fact, it’s Mr Ad Lad to you, sonny.

Number 2.

If you take nine months to say no, you better have a damn fine excuse. I can read a 2.5 k story in fifteen minutes. Nine months is less that ten words a day. Even a well trained sloth can read quicker than that.

Number 3.

Don’t pretend you’re being objective and then consistently publish your mates, so they in turn will consistently publish you. If you want to have a big editorial love fest with your buddies, get a room.

Number 4.

Don’t ignore me. If I send you an email asking you what’s going on with my story that means I do exist. It means I expect a response. Not the silent treatment. It might have taken me one year to write a story.  It takes you one minute to send a rejection.

Number 5.

You’re not the Editor of the Paris Review. Your magazine is probably read by your mates, your mum and your girlfriend. Patronizing me with fake words of encouragement or sage pronouncements about the world of publishing, doesn’t make me think you’re a player. It makes me want to slap you.

It’s worth noting that not every editor is an excuse for a noose. Some are fantastic, prompt, courteous, encouraging and really helpful.  In the coming weeks and months I’ll be showcasing these fantastic few, so that the rest might better understand what it takes to be a Special E.

If you have any nominations, please post them here or email me at

Are you off your headline?

Hands up, I admit it, I’m rubbish at coming up with story titles. I don’t know why but often I’ll go through at least a dozen different options before finding something half decent.

However, I’m wizard at headlines, which is a result because today I had to salvage a campaign with some hardcore magic. After brainstorming with my creative team and coming up with a pretty clear concept,  I was presented a couple of hours later with a visual world that was totally, inexplicably different from what we discussed.  There were wolves. There were elven nymphs.  There was even a fcuking snow queen!

Cue “We’re not selling stuff to the denizens of Narnia!” rant.

One pint of water and a neck massage later,  I was back on my game. With no time to change the visuals, I let my imagination soar. And to my surprise, not only was it a load of fun, but I ended up with some weirdly cool stuff.

Now, I’m wondering if I should brief the visual creatives about my stories too.  You never know, their total misinterpretation of my words might be just what I need to fix my story title dysfunction.

If you’d like to take the Inexplicable Pic Path to Creative Success yourself, simply gaze at one of the pics below. Write down every relevant headline or a story title you can think of in five minutes. Then, repeat until you’re satisfied or insane. And if these inexplicable pics aren’t inexplicable enough, you can find plenty more HERE.




Money for copy and your kicks for free


Sometimes when I’m hanging out with my other copywriter friends (not sure what the noun is for a group of creatives? A brainstorm maybe), they ask why I bother with this story writing lark.

“Writing fiction, it’s a mug’s game, right? I mean you can’t make a living from it, can you? Not unless you’re Stephen King or J.K Rowling.”

Of course most people don’t do it for the cash, they do it for the kicks.  But my ad mates do have a point. Unless you’re consistently on the top ten bestseller list, writing fiction is, per word, one of the worst paid writing jobs there is.

In 2007, Bournemouth University conducted research into authors’ earnings in the UK. Based on a survey of 25,000 writers they came up with some interesting stats

10% of authors earn 50% of the total income

The average earnings of a professional author are 33% below the national average wage, which means they earn 16 750 pounds or 19 500 euros or 27 350 dollars

But the majority of authors earn just 4000 pounds a year.

60% of UK authors need a second job to survive

When you consider the average wage for a copywriter is more than 37 000 pounds (journos get 28 000) and many earn a whole lot more, you can see why my mates wonder why I waste my words.

But, if you want to freelance, fiction can help you earn cash. Not just through competitions, (I’ve won approx. 1.5K in two years) but more importantly through credibility. You slap a couple of anthologies or magazines in front of your average marketing bod, and their eyes light up.

“Ohhhh, you’ve been published, have you?”

Suddenly you’re not just another potential supplier, you’re an artist! You’re rock and roll. You have credibility.

So if you dream of living off writing, don’t think you have to get your kicks for free.  Why not start pitching your fiction writing skills and make them pay instead?