Alex Crowe

Archive for the ‘Portfolio’ Category

A tale of two clients

In Deadlines, New clients, Portfolio, Telecommuting, Websites on February 5, 2016 at 9:30 am

January 2016 has been a good month for new clients – at both ends of the stressful spectrum.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to do some work for a London agency that’s on everyone’s one-to-watch list. I got the call on a Thursday and punted some lines to them by the time they got into work on Friday – one advantage of living in a slightly different time zone. The Creative Director asked to see some more lines – so I did some more. By 4pm, he hadn’t seen anything that he really loved.

As is often the case, there was a lot riding on the job – and it was going the national press. I casually asked when the deadline was: The end of that day.

I met the deadline with over an hour to spare.

A couple of days later, I was put in touch with someone who needed a new website. They had written some text but had gone as far as they could go. After a Skype call where we established that we were pretty much a perfect match, they trusted me to polish their words, add some of my own, and build the site in WordPress.

The site launches today – it’s about getting rid of stress, among other things – and looks like this.

Vale de Torre retreat website

All the news: New year, new client, new WordPress theme, new website.

If you know anyone that needs my help with anything, you know where to find me.

Another day, another website

In Portfolio, Websites on September 19, 2014 at 8:16 am

A few months ago, after being found through Linkedin (which I always mentally pronounce Lin Keddin, for some reason) I was asked to write the new website for the Quay Arts Centre on the Isle of Wight. This has just been launched into the world and you can see it here.

Great job from Karen Grainger and her team.

You’re only as good as your last job

In Portfolio on December 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm

This is as true today as it’s ever been. Which means I’m only as good as the new website for écovallée – the family yurt camp in the Dordogne. Click on the screen shot to see for yourself:

écovallée screen shot

Boringly brilliant

In Portfolio on February 4, 2013 at 11:14 am

Again, this is from my pre-ethical-only days, but I include it here because I think the idea (not mine) is genius.

From memory, the mailing was to prevent the haemorrhaging of customers in a newly deregulated marketplace. The pack itself is very dull, but I always had this in my portfolio because the offer was so clever. It was this: Get discounts from other people!

Essentially, it’s a “loyalty programme” that costs almost nothing. (It even had to be in two colours to save on cost.) We sent out a blank envelope:


Inside was a letter with a laminated card glued on:


And on the back of the card, a bunch of offers:


There are so many ways to apply this idea, I almost wouldn’t know where to start.

The invisible portfolio

In Portfolio on January 30, 2013 at 10:59 am

One of the problems with writing websites is that they tend to disappear.

I’d love to show you the work I did for ercol, for example. But it’s changed so much that only a few sentence fragments remain.

When I was employed at Publicis-Dialog during the noughties, I did an even bigger job for a housebuilder called Wilcon Homes. Their existing site wasn’t very user friendly, so we started again and created an enormous site with tons of information on every part of the housebuying process. One of the big changes was in the search engine – I thought it made more sense to look for a new home by location or price, instead of the name of the development. It’s pretty obvious (and I think the same about travel agents), but apparently it was revolutionary. A few years later I met someone who told me it became the industry leading website. I tried to find it this week, but after we re-branded Wilcon Homes to Wilson Connolly, it was bought by another housebuilder, who has since been bought by yet another.

Happily, I found the current owners of the website here. They are still using the same search engine and much of the information I originally wrote. There’s even some of my wording on the homepage. It’s not all mine, though – I would never start a paragraph with the word “We”.

Rewarding loyalty

In Portfolio on January 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm

This is what we sent out next:


The idea was to do a series of executions where the logo appeared unexpectedly. Here, a ship sails from the left as the sun rises. When the ship passes the sun, the Circle One logo is revealed and – as a loyal customer – you know something good is about to happen.


In this case, I think we sent free minutes of phone time – cheap for the company to do and great for the loyal customer to receive.

When I returned to the UK, I was shocked to see Channel 4 TV using the same concept with their logo between shows. They’re still doing it today, and doing it very, very well.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for the Circle One program (UK: programme). Shortly after we launched it, 360 was bought by another company who promised to keep the programme (US: program) running, then closed it almost immediately. I suspect accountants were involved.

I like this work for a number of reasons. In loyalty terms, it absolutely rewarded the best customers, which is the whole point. It also made something out of a very weak offer (ie, nothing) and did it beautifully. It was great to have a client who signed off everything we did and we had a lot of fun in the process.

Follow-up mailing

In Portfolio on January 15, 2013 at 10:21 am

A short time after the launch pack, we mailed this piece to those “lucky” enough to be at the elite level of the programme (US: program).


It was an invitation to collect a tiny, shiny – and very cool – space pen with the Circle One logo etched into one side. (I was also given a pen, although my luck ran out when it slipped shinily from my pocket onto a bench at Earlsfield station, in South-West London, in early 1999.)


Not surprisingly, these mailings were very well received by customers. I’ll post one more piece to show how we were going to develop the work and tell you how the story ends.

My favourite non-award-winning loyalty pack

In Portfolio on January 11, 2013 at 4:24 pm

This pre-ethical piece is one of the few jobs I was really pleased with from my time in the States. The brief was to launch a new loyalty scheme to customers of a cell phone (UK: mobile phone) provider. The offer was: Nothing. Nothing at all. Diddly squat.

So all we could do was tell people what they already had.

After coming up with a name and the coolest membership card of any scheme I’ve worked on (kudos to director Katie Hopkins), we mailed out the following pack:

360_outer front

A reverse window outer with the new logo as a constellation.

360_outer back

We used the circle motif everyone. It’s not very practical when it comes to windows, but we did it anyway.


The letter introduces the program (UK: programme) – this version is for the upper-tier (Select) members – and includes a member-get-member device.

360_letter back

The lesson from this letter is, if you have nothing to say, use parentheses.

360_brochure front

Another beautiful bit of re-touching.


The first reveal welcomes the reader to a new world of appreciation.

360_inside left

By this point, I hope the reader is amused and entertained…

360_inside right

…and ready for the next time they see the Circle One logo (in follow-up mailings).

360_card carrier

Here’s the membership card I was talking about.

360_card carrier back

And the back of the card carrier.

I’ll post the follow-up mailings next week, so you can see how this developed. My only regret is that the pack was never entered into an award. The client refused, because they wanted to keep their competitive advantage – a sentiment I had to respect, even if I disagreed. What use are awards anyway? They only need dusting.

Saving the world, one seed at a time

In Portfolio on December 14, 2012 at 11:01 am

The Millennium Seed Bank Appeal was one of the best briefs I’ve ever been given. Apart from the chance to save the world, seed by seed, I got to write a letter signed by living legend Sir David Attenborough. He approved the text and the quote on the back cover with no changes. Here’s the mailpack we sent out:


Years ago, I remember hearing about some testing by Ogilvy & Mather Direct on the effectiveness of images and headlines on envelopes versus blank. Blank won. If I was to redo this now, I’d argue for a cellophane-free window and recycled paper.


Here’s that letter. Again, I’d push for FSC paper at least.


Leaflet front cover. This is A5 landscape and faced recipients as they pulled it from the envelope.


First reveal.


Second reveal. I remember wrestling with the call to action on this. I asked Joe Fraine what he thought and he suggested the: “…send your money today. Tomorrow could be too late.” He meant it as a joke but I went with it. It’s a good line.


Back cover. Full disclosure: Sir David never said that – that was me.


And an envelope to finish. I wouldn’t go with a full stop in the “Affix stamp here” box. This must have been done when I wasn’t looking.

Final thought

A few years ago I went to Wakehurst Place and saw the Seed Bank for myself. What stopped me in my tracks was the logo I saw on a lab coat draped over the back of a chair – a logo I sketched on a layout pad years before, that was finished by my art director, Keith Douglas, and Head of Studio, Carl Shand. I really hope the scientists like it – they’ve got to look at it all day.