Tag Archives: Trump

Politics by telegram

I didn’t last long as a copywriter. About six months, in fact.

The old man who was head of the team of wordsmiths at the Downton Pulford Compton ad. agency thought my headlines and body copy were a bit long-winded. “Think telegrams”, he advised. That’s all he said. A bit short and sweet. But I kind of got what he meant: keep it simple.

Donald Trump
seems to appreciate the power of keeping it simple. His modern day telegrams – Make America Great Again, Fake News – and the others, communicate simple, telegrammatic, posterised messages that slip easily into the memory bank without raising the slightest alarm or prompting too many questions among his followers.

Who wouldn’t vote against the simple injunction to “Make America Great Again”? Or, in the case of Brexit, to “Take Back Control”? The K.I.S.S. principle is tried and tested.

Back then telegrams were still quite popular, though the UK’s main telegram service ended in 2003 (interestingly, it’s still possible to send one, via telegramsonline).

Telegrammatic communications have been a bit out of fashion for quite a while, perhaps with the exception of that most powerful of advertising media, posters. Posters have a unique ability not to divert attention away from the basic message with snazzy video and dialogue that makes you think “What the hell was that all about?” They distil, focus and cut through. Just like the telegram did. When each word cost money, people were short and sweet to save cash. But the message was concise – and therefore clear. Stop.

Never was a telegram shorter and sweeter, perhaps, than in the case of Oscar Wilde‘s legendary exchange with his publisher, enquiring about the success of his most recent book. He sent “?”, to which the publisher replied “!”

Downtons handled a large proportion of the UK advertising for cinemas – not the ads. that appear on the screen, but the ads. in the local paper that give details of what’s on at the pictures. In addition they publicised film launches – and other stuff, like sales of confectionery and ice cream.

For quite a long time I was given menial tasks – just writing body copy for leaflets. It was the era when cinemas were converting to multi-screen – so quite a significant period in the history of the UK industry. Lots of factual leaflets were needed for door-to-door distribution. No-one in the department wanted to be involved with rubbish like that. The other creatives all guarded their bits of the business like mother elephants.

I thought I’d made a breakthrough when I was given an assignment to write an ad. encouraging people to spend more money at ‘front-of-house’ (FOH, as it’s known); ie in the foyer. I believe it’s still the case that cinemas make a large proportion of their profit from FOH sales. It’s almost as though the movies themselves are the bait to lure unsuspecting customers into the foyer to shop for way-overpriced burgers, sweets, ice lollies and chocolate.

Anyway, in this instance, my task was to write an ad. for Wall’s Ice Cream. Which I did.

(Not sure why, but in the back of my mind as I write this, I hear Trump bellowing “We’re gonna build the wall!”).

Anyway, it turned out that my headline, which to this day I think was quite snappy, went down like a lead balloon. I think the old man though it was a bit too clever.


Pun on the word “lolly”? Didn’t go for it. It soon became clear that my career in Creative was going nowhere; I switched to the Media department.

It was all very political …



Image credit: By dumbfoundling a flickr user [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


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Could Hillary’s basket be woven into a badge of honour?

However apposite Hillary Clinton‘s description of some of Donald Trump‘s supporters as a “basket of deplorables” – and I, for one, entirely accept her epithet – it has such a ring to it that there’s a risk it will be adopted as a badge of honour by the very people that she’s vilifying.

Just over a hundred years ago, the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) set off for France and the Western Front. Legend has it that Emperor Wilhelm II, hearing the news, issued an order to “exterminate … the treacherous English and walk over General French’s contemptible little army”.

Survivors of the victorious B.E.F. remembered the term used by Emperor Wilhelm, and ever after referred to themselves as the Old Contemptibles.


In today’s war of words, insults and accusations fly across the airwaves like bullets from the barrel of a Gatling gun.

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment”, Mr Trump said in his highly controversial, if largely incoherent, August 9th speech to supporters in North Carolina. “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know. But — but I’ll tell you what. That will be a horrible day. If — if Hillary gets to put her judges — right now, we’re tied. You see what’s going on”.

The incoherence sometimes acts as a smoke screen – what was he really saying, when adding the phrase “maybe there is”, in this portion of his speech?

Trump has hinted that what he is leading is not so much a political party as a “movement”. In the same speech, he said:

“They said the place is already full. And Rudy just said man; I’ve never seen anything like that. Maybe a couple of days before an election, but this is what’s happening. Because of the fact we have a movement going, folks”.

The question may turn out to be, will the leader of this movement be prepared to play by the rules if he’s defeated on November 8th? Getting his retaliation in first, before the election has even been run, he said: “Well — and I will not tell you to vote 15 times. I will not tell you to do that, OK? (APPLAUSE) You won’t vote 15 times. But people will, they’ll vote many times and how that could’ve happened, it’s unbelievable”.

Ramping up the incitement, he added: “So, I just look at this, and I said that if she gets elected, she will cause the destruction of this country from within. Remember that. Remember that”.

oldcontemptiblesAgain, through the fog of war, the words “Remember that”.

It remains to be seen whether being dubbed Deplorables by Mrs Clinton will help to crystallise Trump’s ‘movement’, with as-yet-unforeseen consequences in the months and years following the election.



Read the full text of Trump’s August 9th speech here.

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