Bright Sparks: Picking up the pace

It is week 4 and our bright sparks are embracing the pace of advertising life.

Jonathan Webb – Creative Executive 

Well, here I am at the end of my fourth week!

The pace has certainly picked up; I feel I have definitely been in the thick of it, especially in my fourth week where we had many hours to put in to complete two briefs that were at different stages. It was hard work and stressful at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have still loved every minute of working here at PLBR and I look forward to the weeks to come with the same fervour.

I had a presentation given by Vineet Thapar from Digitas Health Life Brands, where he detailed all the digital focused work that they do, and it has made me very excited when I start my next placement there!

Vineet Thapar - SVP, Group Creative Director Europe.

Vineet Thapar – SVP, Group Creative Director Europe. Digitas Health.

Everyone is still extremely nice, funny, hard working and wonderful to be around up at PLBR, making me think it’s genuinely how they are and not just how they presented themselves when I started. It makes for a great environment to work in. They also still eat a lot of food, there’s always chocolates or cakes or something being shared out, which is always great.

I’m also looking forward to the Christmas party! Roll on week 5!

Amma Osei-Owusu – Account Executive

Looking back, I’m finding myself wondering how time has gone by so quickly! It seems to be moving insanely fast, I suppose when I consider the fast pace of the agency it’s befitting everything flies along with the pulse. That being said after the whirlwind of the first weeks the dust has finally settled. I feel as though I now have a grounded routine where I “sort of – kind of” know what to expect. I have the expectation that every day will bring something entirely new to learn. I feel as though I’ve been finding my feet here, I’ve been learning the ropes. Daily I’m met with a vast array of different tasks to accomplish, most things are completely new to me and each task I  complete brings  that sweet sense of fulfilment; the sort that makes you want to pause and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done but the learning doesn’t plateau. The thing about the LAB experience is it’s a bit like a decathlon, it’s a constant roll of events and hurdles to face and it’s all about constant progression. Already looking back I’m amazed that in such a short period of time I’ve picked up so much it’s like an intensive course where I’m actually able to apply the new skills I’ve learnt and that gives me a fabulous sense of achievement.

Amma at work

Amma at work

The thing that most distinguishes the earlier weeks from these latter weeks is the growing sense of responsibility that comes with being increasingly involved with clients. As an account manager, client interaction is undoubtedly the biggest part of the job. I’ve been gradually integrated into the conversations between the agency and external clients whereas in previous weeks I was solely engaged with internal communications. I’m so grateful to be involved in the process – to be the link between the client and their desired goals, this is major stuff for me!

Part of getting stuck into the role of an account manager means constantly accounting for finances; total project cost, out of pocket expenses and so forth. It also means tracking the development of projects right from the first brief, estimating cost and raising job numbers, warranting that time is allocated appropriately, constructing and ensuring timelines are met, ensuring the client is not just satisfied but is happy. We are required to do that little bit extra in order to be successful. Here at Saatchi and Saatchi health we build meaningful relations with clients this means they see us as an extension of the team and not just an agency, these are just some of the things I constantly have to be thinking about.

Finances, finances, finances

Finances, finances, finances

Considering I entered into the LAB without the same background in healthcare that others in this profession possess, the amount I’ve learnt about the healthcare industry within the scope of time is gastronomical. I feel like I’ve suddenly delved into vast world that I previously didn’t not realise the breadth and depth of. There are so many complexities to it. Working on different accounts means I’m constantly introduced to different conditions and drug treatments. The variety in the types of clients we work with is also what makes this job so enjoyable. One minute I’m working with a client that produces an anticoagulant for stroke treatment and in the very same day I’ll also be working with a client that specialises in incontinency care. They all have varying needs and wants. In addition to that there is the tricky and sticky “red tape” restrictions that regulate healthcare advertising. The task presented to us to us to rise above the challenge is quite a big ask, but from my time here already I’ve learnt that the Saatchi mantra “nothing is impossible” couldn’t be more true when it comes to healthcare communications. To overcome the obstacles set before us it is important we approach them at different angles and perspectives. My unique contribution I believe, perhaps stems from my unfamiliarity with this world. My eyes are wide open just like a child in a sweet store I’m overwhelmed – filled with awe by the mass and scope of it all, but seeing the bigger picture – the holistic picture is so vital in this industry, and asking the questions my curiosity probes me to ask, may lead not just to greater understanding for my sake but also to further innovation in the approach to healthcare communications.

About the ‘New Guy’

Well I have been asked to write a PLBR blog, which I graciously accepted without knowing what I wanted to talk about. So I hope the following ramblings and incoherent thoughts suffice.

As the ‘new guy’ I am often asked about what I did before winning the creative role from The Lab. So I suppose this blog post will not be dissimilar from a bio piece, but I will try to include some advice or talk about something of actual value along the way. Try not to get bored.

I suppose for want of a better word; I am an artist and always have been. From moulding foul smelling Play Doh into sculptures, to having more child-friendly anti-toxic paint over myself than the paper – I was always told I would make a great artist. I wanted to be one. Not the society hating, pretentious, rude and hard to work with ‘tormented genius’ role that looks down on other people (which seems to be the norm these days). Rather the kind that likes to create for beauty’s sake.

Using-Play-Dough-to-get-Kids-Talking-In-Our-Hands-Blog

So with that in mind, I did a year towards a degree in Law. And even though I found criminal law to be interesting, I knew it wasn’t enough to hold my attention for the rest of my life, so I applied for art courses whilst working in a bank. Not in a branch, but in a ‘magic building’ where the real work happened. It was pretty dull. I eventually started my degree in Fine Art and it was 3 of the best years of my life. I drew, painted, sculpted and slept a lot. I had a particular affinity with lens work and branched off in the latter half of my second year to specialise in film and photography. My first film was awful. It’s 3 minutes long, involving me sharing a banana with myself. Black and white silent film where I stole some music from a Charlie Chaplin film and slowed it down to around 80%. Poorly edited…It went on to be showcased at the Whitstable film festival. A lot of people shook my hand saying how much they liked it. Damn.

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I also love photography. Some of the shots I achieved with a really bad camera (included) I think are a testament to how I compose a shot. I’m really happy with them so I hope you think they are cool. I am now saving up for a 5d or a c300 or something similar.

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I have written a lot of screenplays, a few of which I was told to pursue by one of my lecturers – a film-maker who has had commissions with Film 4. So that’s a thing. Maybe if I plan it out well enough I can get a few short films done before I’m thirty. One of them I did in my final year at university. I was the producer, budget handler, head of casting, location scout, set designer, camera operator, director, runner, gaffer, cinematographer, editor, colour grader and I set up the screen for the ‘I AM art exhibition’ it was shown for. I will get funding and a crew next time. It was selected for a 6 week screening at the Turner Contemporary Gallery. An honour. I am not posting a link to the video as I don’t like it any more – sorry!

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I suppose I had better talk about something of value. A cutesy go-away-and-think-about-this type deal. Hopefully some of you are still reading, I know this is long. I wouldn’t read it. Anyway, I’ll call it ‘inspiration’. Here goes.

Aesthetic is important and wondrous. Not a day goes by where I don’t look up at the stars and get lost in the vastness (oh look he is a pretentious arsehole). I have seen Hubble space images projected at an IMAX, as well as footage of them installing the Hubble – all narrated by Tom Cruise. I highly recommend it. That’s what inspires me. Knowing how finite and insignificant we are against the vastness of what we don’t know. Seeing exploded stars in 12K resolution – dead, like they had stuck a pistol in their sun spot, with colourful matter like star brains that are smeared across the space wall – is awe inspiring. If I ever figure out how to transform that beauty outside of space photography and into a gallery I’d be a millionaire. It’s taken a horrible bad poetic turn, but I include a picture of a poetry ‘thing’ I won in school. See it? Great young minds. See, right there, credentials. I was a cocky kid in school, but least I had evidence to back it up. These are the ramblings I told you about at the beginning, remember?

If I had anything to say of worth, it’s to find your muse. Find something or someone that inspires you, and hold on to it. Look at it every day, even if it’s as stupid as looking up at the stars every night. Go and hold your head up high – walk out the door every morning knowing you’re going to kick arse that day. That’s what inspiration does; it’s the little spark that starts it all. Go get ‘em you brilliant bastard, I believe in you.

Jonathan Webb – The New Guy.

2 weeks on the job and our diagnosis is…

Following our lab initiative, two amazingly talented individuals have now joined our team. We thought it was only fair to give them a chance to tell you how they are both settling in.

the-lab-logo

“Some future industry leaders are born. Others are made in The Lab.”

Jonathan Webb – Creative Executive

I have arrived at the end of my second Friday now with the creative team at PLBR and what a two weeks it has been.

I have already been included in numerous projects, which has given me great insight into our current work and the clients we are dealing with. Initially the NAUBE (Numerous Acronyms Used By Everyone) were difficult to grasp, but such is the nature of the healthcare sector I suppose. I feel I have assimilated smoothly into my new job, largely due to the fact that everyone on the PLBR team have been incredibly accommodating, friendly and an all-round great bunch of people.

Any difficulties? Adjusting to working as a team. I have worked as part of a team in many capacities before, but never in a creative one. I have always been the lone ranger artist, I come up with concepts and I know how I want it to look, so I make it that way. Coming to a team environment I have to reign in how I think it should look, and contribute to something to how we all think it should look. I’m getting there sooner than I thought.

JonI feel I have definitely contributed, I feel I at least add a different perspective when looking at things, which is always a great addition to a team of already creative people. I got a few strange looks when I broke out the watercolours instead of designing something digitally, but the end product of what I made people really liked, and was used to show the client one of the concepts, so I’m happy whether I was being placated or not. Taking it ‘old school’, I might just help start a campaign in pastels, not pixels.

All in all, I have loved my time here so far and I don’t want it to end! To know I’m getting paid to do something I love, with really great people is a clichéd ‘dream come true’. Two and a half hour creative brainstorms seem to fly by, and I walk out of the meeting room with a buzz. I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of what I can introduce into this industry. Hopefully, given time, I can shine like the ‘bright spark’ The Lab was looking for.

Amma Osei-Owusu – Account Executive

So the morning of the 28th of October had dawned. And since finding out that I had won a place on the LAB, my mind had not stopped buzzing about all the excitement that lay in store for me. I’d frequently find myself ticking off the days and hours in my mental calendar anticipating my first day, and alas, here it was and not a second too late or a moment too early. Reminiscent of a child on Christmas Morning I found could barely contain my excitement; evidenced by the fact that I was up literally at the crack of dawn! No, I hadn’t lost my mind, it just didn’t occur to me at this point that perhaps I should get some more rest, as far as I was concerned I needed to prepare. Training as a territorial army Cadet had taught me to leave nothing to chance and nothing was going to be left to chance. A woman on a mission I set about executing my regimented plan, dogmatically working out how I was going to manage and dodge any potential mishap and unexpected cannon balls that might threaten to throw me off. I was determined to have the best possible start. I was preparing for what I saw as break of a new dawn and oh boy was I ready for it. And what of self-doubt? Quietly extinguished with a burning yet precautious confidence. I Love a challenge I re-assured myself, bring on the LAB!

Amma

The following two weeks flew by like a whirlwind, there was so much to process so quickly, a storm of buzzwords and a hurricane of acronyms being thrown with jargon language flying between them. The task of swallowing them up seemed mammoth at first but with the support of my new colleagues I became partially fluent in this new alien language. I must have been asked a 1001 times about how I was finding my experience, caught off guard and still basking in the shock of it all, I’m pretty sure I replied 1001 times that It was “erm good ..Yeah amazing so far” it seems concentrating in picking up this new vocabulary had conversely limited the range of my existing vocabulary.

Also, I have never been to so many meetings in such a short space of time. From catch up meetings with the Account Executive team in fabulous Soho, to breakfast meetings with Keelie and lunch and learn/account overview meetings within the office, the interaction between staff is fantastic. As well as discovering that I’ll never go hungry here (because of the endless supply of food) I’ve found the communication infrastructure within this agency to be so incredibly efficient, which is vital because with so much going on concerning various clients and projects things could quite easily get extremely manic very quickly. However with effective dialogue streams opened across all sections that is; from the clients to account managers, from the account managers to the creative team and from the creative team to the studio, the process of work progresses very efficiently. In short, things get done and get done well. I can’t wait to discover what else I will learn from this experience, there is so much to pick up on its great. I guess I’m just a sponge soaking it all up.

America needs to loosen up

I have a confession to make.

Like all decent, hard-working people who occasionally work from home, I was doing that thing that you know everyone does whether they’re working from home or not. I was on Facebook. Mainly for recruitment purposes, as you do when you’re intent on adding good people you actually know and like to your growing team (vs. stalking total strangers on LinkedIn and feeling like, well, a stalker). Even with this higher purpose in mind, however, you can’t help clicking on the occasional compelling post that catches your eye.

Which I did, because it’s the day after Election Day in America, and as an American working in the UK I was attracted to a classic Huffington Post click-bait title: A Working Mother’s Plea to the President.

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Author’s note: I am not a working mother. I haven’t started a family yet, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out it might be on the cards at some point in the future given I’m a newlywed with 34-year old ovaries.

However, the topic is still highly relevant to my day-to-day life now – not only because most of my friends are working parents, but so are many of my colleagues. And anyone responsible for the well-being of a team will tell you – it doesn’t hurt to know where they’re coming from.

So I confess, I clicked.

In it, author Regan Long (a working mother of four), described the whole ‘not wanting to leave your new-born behind’ thing in a way I never quite understood. Maybe because my own mother worked, and furthermore loved work, even admitting to me that she would’ve gone crazy staying home any longer than she did. Which was more than most at the time – she saved and scrimped 12 weeks maternity leave instead of the barbaric six weeks granted American women in the 1980’s (and my mother worked for the federal government!). It wasn’t until 1993 that the Family Leave Act doubled the terms to the 12 weeks my mother had taken 13 years earlier.

So it’s unsurprising that I wasn’t terribly moved by the typically emotional language Long evoked, i.e. “Tomorrow, I will miss the bonding experience that is nursing my baby.” Rather it was how she observed this impact on her baby, the biology of it, as if through the lens of a reporter or third-party witness that got to me: “Tomorrow, I will miss the bonding experience that is nursing my baby. Instead, she will struggle to eat (she doesn’t do well with the bottle) as I rush throughout my day…”

Instead, she will struggle to eat.

I regularly miss my American home and family and friends and food and roads and cars and malls and…I could go on. But this, this I do not miss. In the UK, it’s easy to take for granted that women get varying lengths and amounts of paid maternity leave, that in most cases your job will be held for you for a year, and the government pays families a monthly sum to support this.

So what happens in the office when women leave work for up to a year? That’s where my experience lies, being part of the team that remains on the job when expectant mothers cautiously celebrate their last day before maternity leave. Unsurprisingly, people make it work. We find wonderful freelancers who come into our business lives and often add enormous value, gracefully departing stage left when mothers return. We are lucky enough to be employed by a company that embraces flexible working – and not just for returning mothers. Because life is full of transitions, and everyone comes together to support that; we fill in the gaps and do what needs doing because we inherently buy into it as the right thing to do.

It’s time to catch up America.

Ann Hughes – Associate Director

Glug glug glug

I tagged along with fellow colleagues Inghar and Matt to attend my first Glug London event, held at Cargo in Shoreditch. As an advertising person grounded on the ‘account handling side,’ I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was hoping to be inspired and to finally see what these events were all about. It took us an hour to get there (although Inghar swore some app told her it would be 34 minutes) so we ended up standing in the bar area, which was unfortunate as I wore some cool, yet high, pink suede heels…you know, to try to fit in with all the creative types in Shoreditch.

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The first talk was by Hal Happiour (yeah, I don’t really think that is his name), was a bit odd and had me worried that the rest of the evening was going to be boring. Basically, Hal got up and reminisced about his band and how they got out of their record contract and toured the US using social media before social media was ‘a thing.’ As an American, I hadn’t heard of his band, so I’m not sure how truly successful they were, but OK. Then he talked about an app he created called Happiour that companies could use to share Happy Hour events at restaurants, cafes and bars. I was bored. My feet started to hurt.

Luckily the second talk was a bit more interesting. Not following the agenda, talk number two was Yoni Alter who is probably best known for his amazing cityscapes, which I knew I had seen before, but couldn’t place.

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He then shared his latest work philosophy as ‘showing something without showing it’. I viewed as a modern take on pointillism. Apparently, these works consist of sequins he has to make himself.

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The next speaker was a guy from Manifest PR who insisted he only spent 5 minutes on his presentation that morning…which boy, made me feel special. He then proceeded to talk for 15 minutes trying to convince everyone that PR is not lame (because you can apparently swear a lot) and not all about writing press releases. He shared an impressive case study about Manifest’s first client, Brew Dog beer. As he told his story, he kept using the words ‘we.’ But I was left sceptical that the success had anything to do with him. I think he lucked out with Clients who had a clear vision, and the discipline to see it through. Then with this clear vision/brand positioning/personality, which in Brew Dog’s case was essentially about challenging convention, Manifest was able to develop ‘gimmicks’ to bring the Brew Dog brand to life and live that personality. Now I’m not saying the gimmicks weren’t cool, they were…but when you’re given a brand that has such a clear personality at the beginning, and Clients with guts, it makes it kind of easy, no?

The next talk was a refreshing change of pace away from boastfulness to humility. Margaux Carpentier just wanted to share her beautiful illustrations and process with us. She expressed how difficult it is to work with Clients and hear their critique, because her illustrations are her ‘babies and you want them to be loved.’ (Awwww. I guess our advertising creative team is the same?) She shared a story of how she had to develop an illustration for EasyJet in 24 hours…and then showed an illustration that I couldn’t hope to create in 1 year. Next, she shared an illustration of a leopard, toucan and pineapple all staked on top of each other… stating that she ‘did this before it became trendy.’ I must have missed that trend. Which is a shame because I thought it was cool, but better late than never!? She shared many other beautiful illustrations, but the one I’ll never forget was of a bear where the expression in the bear’s eyes left me with a peaceful, yet sombre feeling. I love it when art elicits emotion.

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Next up was a company called Monorex. They started with a high powered, kick-ass show reel of their work that I would describe as street art. Then they actually talked, which to be honest was not as high-powered and kick-ass as the show reel, but they did have some eloquent ways to describe their work. They called street art ‘an essential medium’, which I agree with when it’s done well. When it’s just random ‘tags’, I think it just makes things look dirty. Essentially Monorex have a global network of illustrators, designers and street artists all around the world that they can activate to ‘take creative campaigns and make them more sensitive to the world they’re marketing to’ through executing high-rise murals, installations or other experiences. They describe their work as ‘charm rooted in the dawn of advertising,’ which summed it up well.  An event they hold, and last year ran at SXSW for Chevy, is called ‘Secret Walls’ where two artists (or in the SXSW case, pairs of artists) compete illustrating two white walls with black paint. They described it as mixing sport and exhibition together. Looked like it would have been fun to witness!

My feet were now really starting to hurt.

Next up was Ben Rider, who is an artist that also, funnily enough, has done work for Brew Dog Beer (coincidence? I think not). Essentially, I would describe him as Frankenstein. He takes retro art apart and creates new art with it. The thing I liked about his talk, was that he focused on his process and took you through it. Definitely more difficult of a process than it seemed to me with the untrained eye.

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And now my feet were done, and I took myself and my cool shoes home.

Megan Howard – General Manager

He’s like Marmite…

I know we are given completely free rein in choosing what we would like to write about on here (minus expletives or obscenities) so it may seem a little sad that I am going to share a pharmaceutical-related post, but I think that there is much more behind the scenes of this particular article. Last weekend I sacrificed my much-anticipated Saturday morning lie in to go and visit the Damien Hirst exhibition at the Paul Stopler gallery. Art teamed with science is pretty much my idea of heaven, especially when it displays such an analytical platform – there’s always Sunday.

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SCHIZOPHRENOGENESIS – yes I also wondered how Hirst managed to piece this term together, the melody of the syllables suddenly resonates a pleasant edge. After wandering around the life-size articles for the first 10 minutes I took it upon myself to ask an exhibitionist what they understood by that name in lights – it took a lot as it was a fairly small room with a deafening silence. So apparently Hirst wanted to try to portray the birth of schizophrenia through the way in which the pharmaceutical giants dress up their products. He feels as though it’s a two-way street in the development of such a disorder, and the prescription of medication – sort of a ‘chicken or egg’ dilemma.

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(Damien & Genesis’ Phil look separated at birth)

And as an unsuspecting member of the public it is easy to be drawn in by the pretty, clean and striking models that are laid out on such a stark white background. But what is missing is the dark side of which ironically Damien is notorious for, which is why I find this particular piece so tantalising. It’s not about the first impression, Hirst entices you into becoming infatuated by the portraits, the neon title and the pastel toy-like models, but what is really significant is the sobering reflection.

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The pharmaceutical aspect of this exhibition is actually – excuse the cliché – the tip of the iceberg. Hirst even took it upon himself to plaster his own brand over the back of a pill packet to almost make a mockery of the giants of the industry, to fool you to believe that anyone could personalise and materialise their very own fairytale cure.

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I’m sure many are aware of the imprisoning nature of Schizophrenia however little is known about the effects that it induces upon sufferers and their loved ones. They too strive to create a façade, to disguise the differing personalities and states of mind. Governed by the diagnosis from a trusted professional and ultimately held hostage by the tiny capsules that greet them each day. In a way it is a pretty pill, a beaming beacon of hope that helps guide an individual towards a lifestyle that is worthy of a show – but the show must go on and in this case spiral into a vicious circle. As an audience you are confronted by stacks of medication piled on top of one another, possibly signifying the competitive nature of the industry; which I interpret as a reflection of the competing thoughts that a sufferer has to strive to referee.

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Looking at the containers, the bottles and this syringe – they are all empty, why? It leaves you with such a hollow feeling, this outer shell portrays such a promise from a first glance, but the reality is lacking true substance. Interestingly I managed to discover that Hirst had toyed with the idea of including a completely transparent see-through pill model to bring the placebo to life, but I think the fact that he decided against this emphasises the very purpose. The placebo effect in this case is the one the audience feels viewing his spectacle.

Anyway, I could type on for pages analysing his every intension but I will leave you to take away what you will. From my perspective Hirst can do no wrong (mild bias) and work of this nature can only create a global platform for the education and positive press of a disorder like schizophrenia. If you do get the chance to visit, this free exhibition is on until the 15th November (Tuesday–Saturday). Unless you want to purchase a little memento, in which case all the best with selling your car.

Thanks for reading :-)

Abbie Warner – Junior Account Executive

If bands had straplines …

The advertising of music is a very different proposition to pharma. Listening to Justin Bieber may provoke side effects that include nausea and depression, but music delivers its melodious message across an entirely different medium; with no ABPI concerns to abide by, and no minimum regulatory standards to be concerned with (and at the risk of sounding like your Dad – don’t we just know it), marketing music can be simple as slapping a pretty gurning mug over a televised campaign and playing some choice aural snippets to a receptive target audience. Take that gift of audio away, however, and the harmonious little urchins are in the same boat as the rest of us. How would the marketing maestros behind popular beat combos sell their sounds via the medium of straplines – especially if honesty was the best policy?

JAMES BLUNT

James Blunt

20 million albums sold. 20 million people deny owning a copy.

COLDPLAY

Coldplay
For when that infernal paint just refuses to dry.

NICKELBACK

Nickelback
Your friends know, and they are quietly judging you.

METALLICA

Metallica
Official Champions of Glastonbury Festival.

ONE DIRECTION

One Direction
Their life is better than yours, and they really don’t care what you think.

MUSE

Muse
Because who hasn’t listed to Radiohead and thought “this needs more opera”?

THE RAMONES

The Ramones

One album sold for every twelve T-shirts worn.

THE WANTED

The Wanted
Because One Direction tickets are so expensive!

BRITNEY SPEARS

Britney Spears
Auto-Tune’s MVP for 2014.

ABBA

ABBA

The one guest guaranteed to embarrass someone at a wedding.

McBUSTED

McBusted
With 2.3m Brits already unemployed, we didn’t need six more.

PRINCE

Prince
He’ll have changed his name by the time you read this.

OASIS

Oasis
Because The Beatles are gone, and they’re not coming back.

THE SMITHS

The Smiths

Listening to these guys? Heaven knows you’re miserable now.

ARCTIC MONKEYS

Arctic Monkeys
After eight pints of festival cider, nobody looks good on the dancefloor.

THE CARPENTERS

The Carpenters
It’s OK, you can pretend you’re only listening ironically.

THE BLACK METAL GENRE

Black Metal
The Ophthalmologists choice!

Greg Porter, PLBR Operations Manager