I spent Friday night with my hands behind my head being interrogated and repenting my sins

I went to Underground Cinema.

The only details we knew about the cinema experience was the name, Hope 2.0 and the dress code, foreign.

Communicating only via Facebook, we were told the location of the event the day before – Coburg, and given the instructions to be on time, we won’t wait!

We arrived to join the line of other foreigners, mainly Mexican’s and the French it appeared. The line snaked along a chain link fence – on the other side of the fence, where guards dressed in army fatigues and swat gear whilst directing large muzzled Alsatians along the line. With the odd gypsy lady walking along and singling out people and placing an orange in their hand… I was “lucky” and received one.

Screeching around the corner, engine revving and slamming on the brakes to come to a sliding stop appears a white battered van. The Guards start shouting and swearing at us to get us running into the back of the van, the van is dark, the windows are blacked out with newspaper. There’s a few a laughs and giggles – these soon vanish as the driver tells us to “shut up, you think this is fun, you won’t for long!” With a heavy right foot we hoon off going who knows where, a couple of handbrake turn’s and never seeming to slow down, people are bounced around the back and laughs are replaced with screams.

We come to abrupt halt and a gun comes through the door and more shouting as we get pulled out of the van and pushed into a large covered processing area, guy’s one side, girls the other side we’re told. I’m holding my orange, not sure what would happen if I dropped it. We all get shouted at, “don’t look at me”, “look at the ground”, “hands on your fucking head!”. Two members of the armed guards see the orange I’m holding and roughly pull a black back over my head and drag me off, making me run with no idea where I’m going.

I get thrown into a seat, and there’s more shouting, this time asking for my name, then I hear a female voice and the bag is removed, bright flood lights are blinding me and the two guys in balaclavas are so close I can smell their breath. The woman is telling me that I’ve betrayed the uprising and I need to get back onto the plan and can I be trusted? My face is marked with charcoal and I’m given a slip of paper. The bag back on my head, I am ran out of the interrogation room and thrown into a chain link fence…

I walk around the corner and things are a little more relaxed. There’s food and a bar. The area looks like a makeshift camp, rooms made from blue draped tarpaulin. There’s guards walking around and hassling people, and odd rooms, with equally oddly dressed people in them – I lost the people I came with long ago.

After grabbing a drink, I pull the note from my pocket “You must find the preacher, repent your sins and find Bruno”.

Around the camp, it feels a uneasy, you’re not sure when the next thing is going to happen, there’s small explosions going off and the guards drag people off with black bags on their head.

Wasn’t too hard finding the preacher – she was walking around waving a bible to the sky and screaming. I talk to her, she demands I get on my knees, she shouts, there’s a lot of shouting tonight, “whats your sin”, “um, I stole an ice cream when I was a kid on the way home from school”, she call’s me a thief, hits my with her bible and makes me to scream to the sky that I repent my sins. She believes that I truely feel sorry and have repented, she gives me a sleeping bag and sends me on my way to find Bruno.

This finding characters and solving missions carries on for another hour – every attendee that night gets missions.

More shouting and we’re given cardboard signs with “freedom” written on them, what appears to the leader of the uprising, gets on a platform and delivers a speech about freedom and a made up government, he marches through the crowd, we follow, whilst banging our signs and shouting freedom – we’re lead into another warehouse – this time there’s a cinema screen and seats.

Guards get on stage and tell us to keep the event a secret until its all over.

I found my friends. We watched Children of Men.

The night was an incredible way to experience cinema. Amongst other things. Sign up to their newsletter and social account ready for when the next one is announced.



Tell it to the lights

Here’s something. We love our Lifx lights, but we thought, “wouldn’t it be great if we could talk to them? So..

Introducing “Tell it to the lights”. Simply email thelights@theroyals.com.au and our kitchen lights will flash and blink and colour themselves based on the mood of your message. Because they listen. And they care.

Having a bad day? Let the lights knows. Pumped about getting your work finished? Tell it to the lights. Feel like sending an email, but deep down, you know it really shouldn’t be read by a human? The lights will hear you.

Try it out.

How it works: We set up a service that monitors the email address and then passes all content through a sentiment analysis API called “Tweet Sentiment API” (made for Twitter, obviously, but you can push anything through it). Then we made Maker Recipes on IFTTT to trigger our Lifx lights based on the mood expressed in the email message.

Heaps of fun :)

Paul and Dave



The Junkee Junket Unconference

Sometimes, ad strategists get to go on #Junket’s too.

Remember that scene at the end of Mean Girls where everyone is happy and braiding everyone’s hair and there are no cliques, only seamless integration between the freaks, geeks, jocks and the beauty queens? Now, I’m showing my age and my horrendous taste in movies, but that was pretty much what the Junkee Media Junket was like by the end of two days in the bubble of QT hotel Canberra. One big, beautiful, intellectual love fest.

For two days in October, 200 of Australia’s most interesting (and #interested) millenials came together for an unconference.

What is an unconference you ask?

A conference without any of ‘the boring bits’. No panels, no speakers, no agenda and certainly no Powerpoint to speak of. In fact, we barely sat down. The conference room was only used as a break-out space and part of the unique program included a ‘critical run’, a Beyonce dance class and a human library (where I met the American Ambassador while wearing Havianas…I did us proud guys).

Did I mention the all expenses paid accommodation, food and open bar? Telstra, Qantas and Visit Canberra put the junket in #junket.

The attendees were a carefully curated bunch of Australia’s most socialised nerds, the brightest and boldest in their fields, diverse and opinionated, hungry to make an impact on their world any which way they could.

And to be fair, most of them already were doing this long before Junket even began.

At the beginning of the conference anyone who felt the urge was invited to partake in a 60 second pitch to the room, stating what they wanted to run a session on. The best of which included; ‘How can we make aged care more attractive to young people?’, ‘How can we close the gap on Indigenous health and stop the number of indigenous women who still die in childbirth?’, ‘Why don’t more people job share so they can pursue more of their entrepreneurial ideas on the side?’, ‘Who and what is an Australian in 2015?’, ‘Why don’t we talk about sex more?’, ‘What is leadership and why aren’t there more introverted leaders?’ and ‘Have soundbites destroyed what makes science, science, it’s complexity?’.

We had most bases covered, except surprisingly, what to do with the refugees. General consensus was that it was an issue that needed to be solved politically rather than with innovation and fresh thinking. Nonetheless, with some editorial intervention it swiftly found a place on stage.

From here, the Junkee team (probably stayed up all night) and created an agenda that turned these topics into 55 unique sessions, each run by the person who pitched it, and attended by anyone who was interested.

The issues were debated, strategized and ideated on in mini-groups and in most cases were solutions focused. The best came to the party with a distinct problem to be solved (just like a good creative brief), the less wonderful came with a topic to discuss but less of a direction for solving it (just like a crap strategy). All were fascinating and rich conversations.

I think, however, that the most important part of this adventure weren’t the topics we covered, or even the insanely instagrammable mid-afternoon treats (jam injectable donuts anyone?), it was undoubtedly the opportunity to meet and connect with people who we would never normally have anything to do with.

Every introduction started with ‘well I do this, but I’m really interested in this’. No one was scared to put their hand up and say something silly, everyone was ready with a personal anecdote, ideas to share, and the enthusiasm was at full viral load.

One of the coolest sessions was hosted by Visit Canberra. It was a ‘human library’ where we could ‘rent out’ a person to share their story and chat with. These people included the Amercian Ambasssor to Australia, in a gay marriage and ex director of a zoo with a lion named after him (I have a minor crush). We had a great chat about representations of politics in pop culture and he left me with a sense of optimism that eventually Australia will follow the rest of the world footsteps and make his marriage legal here.

But while I was at Junket I also curated my own ‘human library’. Housing some of the more interesting people I connected with. Purely by accident these are all females but I promise the guys were brilliant as well and I’ll tell you about some of them if you ask, though I’ve lost my voice after three days of non-stop chatter.

So let me introduce you to a few of the gorgeous people I’d like to keep in my very own human library and hope that one day you get to meet them too.

Sarah Moran: Despite many of the world’s biggest tech companies, such as Microsoft, Google, Intel, Twitter, being run by women in Australia, there is still a notable gender imbalance in the local tech industry. Sarah started Girl Geek Academy with an audacious goal – to teach one million girls how to build apps and create start-ups by 2025. She runs Girl Geek dinners, ideation sessions and hackathons in Melbourne and Sydney and I’ll be heading along to the next one very soon. We discussed solutions to ‘de-masculainise’ the gaming industry such as moving it from a Tech industry definition to one in The Arts.

Laura Stokes: By day, advancement director of Queensland University’s International House, by night, organiser of Brisbanes TedXWomen. A lady with far too much energy for her own good and general enthusiasm for bringing everyone into the conversation, Laura is currently working on an app to connect women with mentors. She described it to me as LinkedIn meets Tindr and that combination certainly made a lot of sense.

Chanel Costabir: Chanel has been recognised as one of Australia’s top entrepreneurs under 30. She draws on her background in psychology to offer a unique take on the stuff we wear ‘closest to our soul’. She incorporates psychology into the lingerie business, educating women on how to use the right colour lingerie to trigger the right emotions in any situation. And she’s not talking about the partners, she’s talking about the women themselves and how they feel when wear a certain colour.

Andrea Myles: I finally found another China geek! Andrea is ‘Chief Instigator at the China Australia Millennial Project, an organisation designed to bring China and Australia closer together. We discussed how we can use creativity to help Chinese partners overcome their fear of failure and at the same time teach Australians to shut up and listen more. Crucially, we discussed the importance of cultural translators, not just language translators when doing business in China.

Emma Beckett: CSIRO nutritionist by day, volunteer at MPAN, the Missing Persons Advocacy Network by night. We discussed how the biggest problem with missing people isn’t in fact those that are missing, there’s only so much you can do to find them, but the families left behind. Without death certificates they are often unable to access bank accounts to pay the missing persons rent, close down accounts or access phone data. The friends and families left behind are resolved to a miserable limbo and it’s actually them that need our help. We developed a communication strategy to draw attention to the space left when someone disappears and raise awareness for the true tragedy of missing people.

So, that’s just a glimpse of what occurred for a few days in Canberra but as the Sydney team discovered yesterday I can talk for a good while about everything that went on. It was inspiring, invigorating and reminded me once again of the importance of getting away from our desks, off Google and Facebook and spending time in the real world with real, interested people.

The more we can make time to do it, the better our ideas and enthusiasm for what we do will be.


Telling your nan you’re a copywriter

For people who work with words, copywriters have such a crappy name. The term copy implies we imitate and pinch the work of others, which we kinda do, but that’s besides the point! Even art directors, who are grammarless doodlers, have a better name. Tell the general population your title, they think you’re a copyright lawyer. Don’t try telling your nan what you do. I did. The lovely old Ukrainian lady just smiled politely and handed me a bowl of Borscht. So what should us copywriters call ourselves? Should we care? Should I just shut up and work? Probably.

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‘Creative’ is the new title given to those who work in the creative department of ad agencies. Art director and copywriter has dissolved into this framework, as naturally, both meld together in the conceptual process. Ideas shouldn’t be pigeonholed from the get go. Freedom, baby. However, creative still doesn’t encapsulate the specialisation of each role. On top of that, the title is a bit self-righteous and pompous, as every person in an agency, from the receptionist to account service, is creative and should have a creative approach to their work. It infuriates me when people say they’re not creative. We all are.

As a copywriter, you can get by in agencies just by being able to spell and use correct grammar, but where does that get you? Not very far. The meat is in pulling the strings. When I was a freshie, I was told that creative directors were looking for was the spark; being able to spot good ideas, and having the drive to see them through. The craft of shaping words and art came with experience.

After working in the industry for five years, I feel I’ve picked up a level of craft with my writing, (although you may disagree while reading this), and am not ready to let go of the copywriter title and just be labelled creative. And you can’t call yourself a creative/copywriter, it goes against the advertising rulebook, clarity. Others have tried to come up with new wankier names like wordsmith, persuasion engineer, word wrangler, word director, and I’ve even heard word painter. When I type copywriter into a thesaurus, no results are found. Go figure. Maybe just professional dick will suffice.

Where I’ve landed after many sleepless mornings is the title ‘writer’. Being a writer is aspirational and implies creativity within the nature of the term. You can’t write something without having an idea. Some writers outside the bounds of advertising may take offense to this, and fair enough, does it ruin the integrity of the name? Eh, whatever. Build a bridge. As I’m writing this, it makes sense, in a week’s time, it probably won’t. At least it’s clear, and people get it. When you tell your nan, she’ll think you’re George Orwell or James Joyce.

If you have any suggestions, arguments, or slander, let’s shoot the breeze.

Lee Spencer