Recently I saw a poster that I really liked.

It was called “Advice for Design Students”.

But it works equally well for advertising students.

Probably all students in fact.

Probably all people in fact.

The poster consisted of these words, white-out-of-black:


“Believe in your fucking self.

Stay up all fucking night.

Work outside of your fucking habits.

Know when to fucking speak up.

Fucking collaborate.

Don’t fucking procrastinate.

Get over your fucking self.

Keep fucking learning.

Form follows fucking function.

Find fucking inspiration everywhere.

Fucking network.

Educate your fucking client.

Trust your fucking gut.

Ask for fucking help.

Question fucking everything.

Have a fucking concept.

Learn to take some fucking criticism.

Make me fucking care.

Use fucking spell check.

Do your fucking research.

The problem contains the fucking solution.

Think about all the fucking possibilities.”


I love that poster.

I love the content, but I also love the style.

The way the word “fucking” is used as a fist slamming on the table.

Saying, without actually saying it “Wake up. You’re not a child anymore. Don’t sit around whingeing”.

For me swearing is like a condiment.

You use it to spice up whatever you’re trying to get people to pay attention to.

Don’t use too much, if you do it overpowers everything else.

But this is the exception.

Here, once every sentence is the right amount.

Imagine how dull that advice would be without the use of that word:


“Believe in yourself. Stay up all night. Work outside of your habits. Know when to speak up. Collaborate. Don’t procrastinate. Get over your self. Keep learning. Form follows function. Find inspiration everywhere. Network. Educate your client. Trust your gut. Ask for help. Question everything. Have a concept. Learn to take some criticism. Make me care. Use spell check. Do your research. The problem contains the solution. Think about all the fucking possibilities.”


Without the repetitive use of that word, it’s just a long list of clichés.

Just a dull litany.

I think the repetition of that added word enhances and emphasises the content.


Or, to quote John Hegarty “A great ad is 80% idea and 80% execution”.




17 thoughts on “WHEN BAD LANGUAGE IS GOOD”

  1. In his autobiography, the great Anthony Burgess recalls a sergeant complaining that about a lorry that wouldn’t start: “Some fucking fucker’s gone and fucking fucked the fucking fucker!”

    Personally, I found that the repetition in the poster got fucking boring… but then, what the fuck do I know?

  2. I cut and pasted the ‘f-free’ copy into a blank Word document. Put the ‘fucking’ back in the last sentence. Changed the colour of ‘fucking’ to red. Which saved the slamming of the fist to the end when it came to reading the copy. But made it the first thing you saw before you started reading. Imho, more effective because less is more.

  3. Dave, sorry, meant to say, KEPT the fucking in the last sentence. 2am here! Colouring one word only to highlight your point isn’t a new idea; think a lot of Neil French’s ads, or the cover of the CDP book. But it works.

  4. Thanks for sharing Dave. This article make me smile in this early morning. It make me think of your old article,we have to use the right language for the right person. Lol

    1. Tom,
      My problem would be that it’s all about the name.
      I still don’t know what the drink is.
      Is it alcoholic, is it energy, what flavours, why should I drink it?
      Basically “If the name Pussy makes you snigger buy this drink” seems to be the message.
      If that’s the strategy, we have to assume they’re targetting boys around the age of puberty.
      Maybe that’ll work, seems a bit niche to me.
      But I still don’t get what the consumer benefit is at the end of it.
      Unlike the Club 18-30 ads, where at least the consumer benefit was lots of shagging.
      I’m all for controversy.
      But it has to be towards a purpose.
      ‘Form follows function’ is always the correct way to judge an ad.
      So based on the form, what function do we think it’s trying to deliver?

  5. Spot on, Dave, don’t ban it for being offensive, just don’t run it because it doesn’t do the job… it’s just another version of those ads that show a busty woman and then saw, ‘Now we’ve caught your attention, we’d like to tell you about our rivet-swapping facility…

  6. Dave, I sometimes wonder whether any of these sort of motivational posters will make any fucking difference to students. Most of them are self absorbed scared fucks who are to busy avoiding negative feedback,. I’ve been to both uni and art school and in both places I found my fellow students were always aiming for ‘likeable’ and not for ‘different’ (art piece, thesis, paper, design, you name it) and most teachers endorse this because it tickles their egos. Only a handful of teachers and students crossed my path who were really looking and aiming for ‘different’. A poster like this, no matter who important the message is, will only ring true to those already doing it. The others are to busy either slacking or getting a good grade/ticking all the right boxes.

  7. Paul, sadly I think you’re right.
    But I don’t think there’s anything you can do for the others anyway.
    Just concentrate on the good ones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *