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Best New Thinking Winner 2010


£9.99 by Frederic Beigbeder
New Title published July 12th 2002

Buy the book here or read a review

£9.99 Frederic Beigbeder 2002 Picador Click on the title and you can order the book from Amazon. And build up the site beer fund as you do so!

  • Yet another exclusive this month. Firstly you get to read one of the first reviews of £9.99 translated from the French. 99 Francs was a best seller in France this time last year. We have an extract from the book The 10 commandments for creatives. And we have an interview with the author. Click on the icons below to hear him talk about the book and his take on advertising. Lastly you can read my review of £9.99 below.

We have permission to feature the 10 commandments for creatives featured in the book. In the planning craft area you may have read our anti- kata on how to destroy great creative ideas.

The 10 commandments for creatives – Frederic Beigbeder

  • 1) A good copywriter never targets the consumer but the 20 people most likely to employ him (the Art Directors of the 20 best advertising agencies). Consequently, winning prizes in Cannes or at the D & AD Club is far more important than winning market share for a client.

    2) The first idea is the best but you should always insist that you need three weeks before you can do a presentation.

    3) Advertising is the only job in which you’re paid for doing things badly. When you present the client with a brilliant idea and they want to “make a few alterations”, think long and hard about your salary, then cobble together the crap they’re dictating in thirty seconds flat and chuck a few palm trees in on the storyboard so that you can go and spend a week in Miami or Cap d’Antibes for the filming.

    4) Always arrive late for meetings. A copywriter who arrives on time looses all his credibility. When you come into the room (where everyone’s been waiting for you for three quarters of an hour) avoid apologising at all costs and just say: “Hello everyone, I’ve only got a few minutes.” Or quote from Roland Barthes: “It’s not the dream that sells, it’s the meaning.” (The other option, which isn’t quite so chic, is to quote from Raymond Loewy “Ugly doesn’t sell well”.) The clients will think they’re getting their money’s worth. Never forget that advertisers go to agencies because they don’t have ideas of their own, they feel as if they’ve failed and they resent us for having ideas for them. That’s why copywriters should feel nothing but contempt for them: product managers are masochistic and jealous. They pay us to humiliate them.

    5) When you haven’t prepared anything, always be the last to speak and take the credit for what everyone else has said. In any meeting it’s always the last person to speak who’s right. Never lose sight of the fact that the purpose of a meeting is to give everyone else a chance to make an arse of themselves.

    6) The difference between a senior and a junior is that the senior is better paid and works less. The more you’re paid, the more people listen to you, and the less you speak. In this line of business, the more important you are, the more effort you should make to keep your mouth shut – because the less you say, the more people respect you. The corollary of that is: in order to sell an idea to the CD (Creative Director), a creative should SYSTEMATICALLY lead the CD to believe that it was the CD who had the idea in the first place. To achieve this he should start his presentations along these lines: “I’ve thought a great deal about what you told me yesterday…” or “in response to your idea the other day…” or even “I’ve gone back to your original line of thinking, and…” when, of course, it goes without saying that the CD didn’t say anything yesterday, didn’t have any ideas the other day, and didn’t have any specific line of thinking in the first place.

    6b) Another way of recognising a junior from a senior: the junior tells funny jokes which no one laughs at, whereas the senior makes humourless jibes which make everyone laugh.

    7) Cultivate absenteeism, come to work at noon, never say anything whenpeople say hello, take three hours for lunch, and make sure no one can get hold of you on your extension. If anyone has a go at you about this, say: “Copywriters don’t work to a timetable just to a deadline.”

    8) Never ask anyone their opinion on a campaign. If you ask anyone their opinion there’s always a CHANCE that they’ll give it. And once they’ve given it, it’s HIGHLY PROBABLE that you’ll have to act on it.

    9) Everyone does the work of the person above them. The work experience girl does the work of the copywriter who does the work of the Art Director who does the work of the Chairman. The more important you are, the less work you do (see the sixth commandment). One high flyer, let’s call him arsehole A, lived for twenty years on the back of a campaign that was actually put together by another guy, arsehole B for the sake of argument, and he got it from the work of two agency copywriters whose names have been completely forgotten. People are always taking credit for the work of their underlings. PASS ON all your work to your work experience boy: if it goes down well, take the credit; if it stinks, he’ll get the elbow. They’re our new slaves: they’re not paid, they can be exploited mercilessly, fired from one day to the next, and used as coffee making machines and walking photocopiers – they’re as dispensable as a Bic razor.

    10) When a copywriting colleague submits a good ad to you, whatever you do don’t show that you like what they’ve come up with. You should tell them it’s a load of crap, unsaleable, or that it’s old hat: it’s been donehundreds of times before or it’s straight out of some foreign campaign. When they show you an ad that really is a load of crap, you should say “I love your idea” and pretend to be really envious.

Listen to the Frederic Beigbeder Interview

  • Exclusive no 2. The following extracts come from an interview I conducted with Frederic Beigbeder on June 26th at the Sanderson Hotel, Berners Street, London. Click on the icons to hear the mp3 files play back.

    play What happened to you when 99 Francs was published? (490K)

    play What do you miss about advertising? (382K)

    play The book portrays advertising and the agency world stereotypically – what people have always believed advertising to be like. Do you think advertising is getting more or less stereotypical? (480K)

    play Why do you object so much to the utopian world portrayed by advertising? (744K)

    play So you’re saying the power of advertising comes from promising but never actually delivering? (618K)

    play One of the strongest images in the book is that of Plato’s cave where everyone prefers to stay inside watching television.. (322K)

    play Tell me about Octave the copywriter the lead character (359K)

    play What’s your favourite bit of the book? (672K)

    play Aren’t you overplaying the power of advertising? (453K)

    play With UK TV audiences falling 10% in the last year and advertising in recession surely the power of advertising is on the wane? (525K)

    play So what’s your solution – to keep taking the pills or to retreat into a cell and try to switch it all off? (359K)

    play What’s your advice to people who work in the advertising business? (292K)

Review of £9.99

Frederic Beigbeder’s novel 99 francs caused an uproar when it came out in France last year. It roared up the best seller lists almost as fast as Y&R ejected him from their midst. Why would an agency get so upset about creative output? I thought we were supposed to indulge the creative brethren. But with a spoof product called Yoplite and a spoof client called Damione who inhabit a bunker of steel and glass decorated a la Albert Speer – well you get the idea. Some provocation is too extreme to be ignored.

£9.99 is a very old fashioned attack on advertising. It could easily have been written 20 years ago. It is startling because in the interim the advertising industry has professionalised itself, established communications as a notional science – and taken huge care to portray advertising as a cornerstone of popular culture – advertising slogans pass into the language, people swap their favourite ads at parties, half the country has been in a focus group of some kind. So it would be easy to dismiss if the writer hadn’t had established a formidable reputation as one of France’s top creatives. So 99 francs is a piece of whistle blowing – an insider’s view of the ad business. So how does it look? – well cocaine, call girls and shoots on tropical islands – Wham meets Cannes. There is a thoroughly 1980s tinge to the decor. It will confirms what every first year politics and economics student believes in their heart about advertising. What may upset the ad people is the implication that here is a business which is self obsessed, more concerned with personal image than brand image and 20 years behind the times. We could put it to one side if it hadn’t been written by one of our own.

Did I forget to say how funny it is? All the set pieces are here: the client meeting with the slide with incomprehensible brand values on it, the creatives saving the account man’s hide by coming up with an ad on the spot which doesn’t have so much as half an idea inside it, the prostitute who becomes the new face of the brand, the agency awayday in Senegal as the creative director mud wrestles in his underpants with the locals who have been dressed up as natives to look the part.

£9.99 has been relocated in London and the ad slogans generated from the UK. Which isn’t particularly successful because the excessiveness of portrayal of advertising has a French feel to it magnified by our distance from France and the perception that the French do ‘cool’ better than we do over here. The book certainly doesn’t feel as if it has made it to London despite gratuitous mentions of a carpark in Argyll street. And there have been a few mix ups in the translation: for art director you can read creative director most of the time.

So does advertising have a case to answer? Or shall we attribute the whole thing to a socialist who somehow managed to rise to the top of the business with anachronistic view of the power and influence of advertising. I don’t believe advertising is as influential as the Beigbeder makes out and he takes no account of how people’s understanding of marketing and communications has increased hugely to the extent that the most successful campaigns now require the audience to decode what the advertiser is doing. In the UK at least, advertisers and audiences now have a closer symbiotic relationship. And most people aren’t waiting for the advertisers to deliver their aspirations on a plate. They are increasingly defining their own to the fury and impotence of the marketers and the politicians. How much money did the UK economy lose over the world cup? On the wider point of the impact of global advertising, advertising now has a much more extended role but that is to sell the good life on the far side of the Euro Tunnel and that is sustained by advertising but just as much through broadcasting and the film industry.

But whether the book is a hit or a miss, it makes for great beach reading. And it’s worth asking the creatives how many times they’ve scored and with what and whom. Creatives will be swaggering for months after they’ve read £9.99. Give them a treat and buy them a copy.

Click here to order your own copy of £9.99.

Click here to find out more about the publisher Picador:




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