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Word Play

by Steve Braden

Word Play

We all appreciate a great strapline, and producing one is an art form in itself. I’ve always particularly enjoyed those which push a little at the boundaries of language: coining new words; squeezing the last ounce of meaning from existing words; using puns and wordplay. Anything to create a ‘smile in the mind’ and help to lodge a product or brand there.

Not many British people are fluent in German, but when ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty came up with “Vorsprung durch technik’ in the early 1980s it was sufficiently suggestive of superior German technical efficiency to become part of the popular lexicon. When I was at school, there was a brief playground craze (rapidly stamped out by the teachers) of slapping each other round the face and declaring ‘You know when you’ve been Tango’d’ – a phrase that I still hear today in reference to someone who’s overdone the fake tan and radiates an orange glow. And I so wish that I was the copywriter at VCCP who had the flash of inspiration to come up with ‘Compare the Meerkat.’

But it’s just past Christmas, and there’s an old parlour game tradition at this time of year of sharing puns, plays on words and linguistic tricks and challenges…so I thought I’d share one of my childhood favourites.

The challenge is: How do you use the word "and" thirteen times consecutively in a sentence that still makes sense?

The answer lies in the story of two friends, Andrew and Roland, who go into business together and open up a hairdressing salon. Which they imaginatively decide to call Roland & Andrew's.

They visit their local signmakers, to ask them to come up with a sign for their shop front. The signmakers come back to them with a proof, which looks something like the image above.

'That's awful’, they say. 'You've got all the spacing wrong between the letters and the words.' The signmaker asks them to explain. "Well...

"You need to sort out the spacing between 'Rol-' and 'and' and '-and' and ‘&’ and '&' and 'And' and 'And' and 'rew'!"

Apologies for that. And a Happy New Year from all at Braden Threadgold.

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