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DEFINITELY NOT MEADIOCRE

 

I just read Peter Mead’s new autobiography, it’s fascinating of course.

But not for the reason you’d think.

You’d think it would be difficult for him to choose the happiest moment of his life.

There must have been so many.

First he persuaded David Abbott to join him in his agency (which he says was like persuading Lionel Messi to join Millwall).

Fifteen years after starting their agency, Abbott Mead Vickers became the biggest agency in the UK.

They’ve remained the biggest in the UK for twenty years.

Their Guinness ad, Surfers, was voted the Best Commercial Of All Time by television viewers.

When they sold shares in AMV, it was over-subscribed 33 times, they needed to raise £6 million, they were offered £200 million.

These are just a few of the high points of an incredibly successful life.

You’d wonder which he’d remember as his happiest moment.

In fact it wasn’t any of these.

Many years before, Peter was a youngster living in Southwark, a rough area in southeast London.

Peter, his sister, and his parents lived in a one-bedroom council flat.

It had no toilet, no bath, no heating or hot water.

Just one bedroom for all of four of them to sleep in.

His parents in one bed, him and his sister, head-to-toe in the other.

The toilet was outside and shared with all the other families.

The bath was a bus ride away, the public baths, and you had to pay.

They went once a week on Saturdays.

Peter’s mum tried everything to get the council to rehouse them.

She constantly queued-up and pleaded for a new flat.

Eventually, after years of asking, the council said they had one.

The family went over to Peckham to look at it.

Peter says he still remembers when they opened the door.

The flat had an indoor toilet, in its own little room.

Incredibly, it also had a bath, in its own little room.

Unbelievably, it had three small, but separate, bedrooms.

Everyone could have their own bedroom.

Peter said that was the happiest moment of his life.

Watching his mum as if she’d walked into a palace.

Watching her as she walked round the kitchen just running her hands along the nice, clean, modern surfaces.

The flat even had hot water when they turned on the taps.

Peter said nothing in his life ever gave him quite the same thrill.

Everything else that happened afterwards was great of course.

But each achievement was a rung on the ladder.

That flat was a totally different ladder.

And that stuck in his mind more than anything afterwards.

It reminded me of the end of Citizen Kane.

When Orson Wells’ dying words were ‘Rosebud’.

And nobody knew what it meant.

The man who’d built the biggest media empire in America, one of the richest men in the world.

Two workmen are burning old forgotten remnants on a fire.

Wondering what, out of everything in his life, he could be referring to.

One of the things they throw on the fire is an old wooden toboggan.

The last shot in the movie is the name painted on the side of the burning toboggan: ‘Rosebud’.

The thing that, as a child, had given him his happiest memories.

The thing he’d remember all his life.

 

As Bill Bernbach said “Simple, timeless human truths”.

WHERE TOUGH GUYS ARE WEAK

 

Prisoners lose touch with their kids while they’re inside.

This alienates them from normal loving relationships, and consequently from the rest of society.

Official statistics show, this makes them eight times more likely to re-offend.

This is a massive problem for everyone.

But what’s the alternative?

Sharon Berry was a single mum, and a prison volunteer.

She saw how it broke prisoners’ hearts to be separated from their kids.

Even the toughest of the hard nuts.

As a single mum herself, she wanted to help.

So she got hold of a small recorder and asked some of the prisoners if they’d like to read a bedtime story to their children.

Then she transferred it to her computer and made it into a CD.

She got the prisoners to send it to their children.

So they could hear their dad reading them a bedtime story.

The effect was instantaneous.

One prisoner said: “My wee girl listens to her story every day. Her mum bought her the book so she can read along as well. She was really missing me and struggling to deal with it all. She wasn’t sleeping and she just sort of withdrew. When she got the CD she was laughing and hugging the speakers and saying “Daddy, Daddy….” Now she’s sleeping better and doing better in school.”

The idea spread like wildfire throughout the prison.

The prisoners could not only stay in touch.

They could actually do something worthwhile for their children.

Another prisoner said: “My daughter didn’t know me when I came to prison. But now I’ve done lots of CDs for her and even written my own stories. Now when I see her she happily runs to me and will sit and talk to me. I now have my daughter back and she has her father.”

Sharon Berry expanded the scheme to Dartmoor prison, she even trained prisoners to do the editing, to add sound effects, and make DVDs.

She set it up as a charity called ‘Storybook Dads’.

It was such a success that prisons across the UK became interested.

Of course they did.

These prisoners are now eight times less likely to reoffend.

It makes sense for everyone.

Storybook Dads is now in a hundred prisons across the UK.

It’s been copied in Canada, Australia, Denmark, and Poland.

Prisoners now have something else to think about when they’re inside, besides crime.

Something to occupy their minds, something to look forward to.

A reason to change when they get out.

In 2010, Sharon Berry was awarded the OBE.

Her work benefits 20,000 prisoners and their families across the UK.

In fact the prisoners even teach members of the armed forces how to use computers to record, edit, and animate DVDs and CDs, so that soldiers can do it for their kids too.

Because everyone’s soft spot is their children.

 

As Bill Bernbach said, the most powerful force available to us is “simple, timeless human truths”.

THE DESPERATION AWARDS

 

It was one of the biggest advertising awards shows in New York.

But that year it didn’t start off well.

There were no tickets at the door for the people who’d ordered them.

Everyone looked around for help.

But there were no staff to help anyone.

The awards were ready and waiting, all stacked up on stage.

The food and drink was all laid out in the huge hall.

There were waiters and catering staff handing out drinks.

But there wasn’t anyone, anywhere from the awards organisation.

So people just came in and stood around.

They stood around chatting, drinking, waiting for the presentation of the awards to begin.

They waited for two hours, but nothing happened.

Eventually a man went onstage, he took the microphone.

He said this wasn’t his job, but as there was no one else around he’d try to give out the awards, if someone would give him a list of who should get what.

But there wasn’t anyone around who had a list.

So he said sorry he couldn’t help, and walked off the stage.

Then a drunk lumbered onto the stage.

He said he didn’t have a list either, but he had an idea.

He said let’s show the slides of the work that’s won, then whoever recognises that work, come up and take your award.

And, in an amateurish fashion, it seemed to work.

He’d show a slide, there would be some murmuring in the audience, someone would come on stage and look to see which award had their name on it, and they’d take it away.

As an advertising industry showpiece, it was a shambles.

And it got worse.

Being drunk, the man onstage fancied himself as an entertainer.

He told the band to play, and he began singing to the audience.

But they weren’t there to hear a drunk singing.

They booed and threw bread rolls.

Eventually the drunk got the message and left the stage.

Trouble was, now there wasn’t anyone to show the slides.

Now there was no way to work out who had won what.

One man suspected he might have won something, so he came on stage and started sorting through the awards.

He found one with his name on it and took it away.

Two more men saw this, they went up onstage and began sorting through the awards, looking for their names.

They seemed to find them because they took two away.

The entire audience was watching this, feeling they were missing out.

If other people were grabbing awards why shouldn’t they?

And it triggered a stampede.

The audience rushed the stage and everyone grabbed for the awards.

There wasn’t time to read the names on the base-plates.

You just had to grab one and run.

Before someone else barged you aside and grabbed it off you.

And all the awards were snatched by the wrong people.

People who hadn’t won anything.

People who just wanted an award.

Any award.

It never occurred to them that it was worthless without their name on it.

And that was the 1991 New York Clio Awards.

Known as “The Most Bizarre Event in Advertising History”.

It demonstrates something that’s always just below the surface.

 

Lots of people are more desperate for advertising awards than they are to do advertising.

READING SETS YOU FREE

 

The problem with all prisons worldwide is overcrowding.

New prisoners come in, but the old ones keep coming back.

And all their time inside is spent with other criminals.

That’s their environment, that’s their only world.

But how do you change that?

How do you rehabilitate them, when there’s no incentive for them to change?

How do you show them there is world outside that isn’t just about crime?

A world with more possibilities.

How do you get them to want to learn about that?

You need to find a way to incentivise them.

To make them want to learn.

In Brazil that’s just what they are doing.

They have a programme called Redemption Through Reading.

When a prisoner reads a book, they get four days off their sentence.

Simple as that.

The books are from an approved list: literary, philosophical, and scientific.

They get a month to read it and write an essay showing they understood it.

The essay needs to “use legible joined-up writing, and be free of corrections”.

They can do this with up to twelve books a year.

Which means, in just one year they can get up to 7 weeks off their sentence.

They can get as much as a year off a seven-year sentence.

Up to two years off a fourteen-year sentence.

So there’s a practical reason to read books, to get out of prison earlier.

And while prisoners are doing that, they learn that another way of living exists.

They learn the habit of reading books to acquire knowledge.

They learn there are other possibilities in the outside world.

Sao Paolo lawyer, Andre Kehdi, runs a book donation project for prisons.

He said “This way a person can leave prison more enlightened and with an enlarged view of the world.

Without doubt they will leave a better person”.

But does it work?

Guardian columnist Erwin James thinks it does.

He was a convicted murderer, serving life in an English prison.

Reading books transformed him as a person, and he was released after serving twenty years of a life sentence.

In The Guardian, he writes: “The books I read in prison didn’t get me a reduction in time, but they helped me become the person I always should have been”.

The books which initially had most impact on him were, of course, about prison:

Prisoners of Honour (The Dreyfuss ‘Devil’s Island’ prison).

Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky

One Day In the Life Of Ivan Denisovith by Solzhenitsyn

Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan

These were books which helped him see his own situation in a new light.

Books which helped him understand it and, more importantly, to turn it around.

These books lead him into the wider world of literature.

Erwin James has now written two best-selling books of his own, and does work for charities as well as writing a column for The Guardian.

All because he started reading books in prison.

The purpose of a prison shouldn’t just be locking people away, that’s inefficient.

It should be about changing behaviour.

 

 

That’s what reading can do.

YOU WIN NOTHING WITH KIDS

 

I was always good at training youngsters.

I kept it simple.

I kept it powerful.

I kept it consistent.

But what made me good with youngsters made me bad with heavyweights.

They don’t want any of those things.

They want to do it their way.

So it didn’t look like I could ever be a creative director.

Because all creative depts were made from middle and heavyweights.

They did all the serious advertising.

The youngsters were only allowed to do trade ads and small space ads.

Everyone told me I should be a teacher instead.

Because that’s where you train youngsters.

But I didn’t want to be a teacher.

Training youngsters to be really good, then watching them go off and work for someone else.

I wanted them to work for me.

I had to look at what I’d got versus what I wanted.

And what I was good at wasn’t what I wanted.

So how can I rearrange the pieces so it works?

I can’t run a conventional creative department.

But what about an unconventional creative department?

What if I trained youngsters to be the entire creative department?

The youngsters would want to do it the way I wanted it done.

We wouldn’t fight because they’d been trained that way.

And it made financial sense.

I could get five teams of youngsters for the cost of a single heavyweight team.

Ten teams of youngsters for the cost of two heavyweight teams.

All those youngsters must be able to do more work.

And in a few years they’ll be as good as the heavyweights.

But much cheaper and much less aggravation.

And that was how Gordon Smith and I built GGT’s creative department.

All kids, all wanting to be trained.

It seems obvious now, but at the time it was unheard of.

Even John Webster said so in Campaign. “Trott’s very good with juniors, but he’ll struggle when he has to hire middle and heavyweight teams. He can’t work with them.”

It was advertising’s version of Alan Hansen’s “You’ll never win anything with kids”.

Well, it depends on the kids.

It depends on the training.

We won huge amounts of new business; we won many, many awards.

We were voted Campaign’s agency of the year.

New York’s Ad Age voted us ‘The most creative agency in the world’.

We became a publicly quoted company on the stock exchange.

But what I liked best was it was done with a creative dept full of kids.

Kids that would have been doing trade ads anywhere else.

Most of them went on to become ECDs or open their own agencies.

Steve Henry, Axel Chaldecott, Kate Stanners, Tim Hearn, Damon Collins, Mary Wear, John Pallant, Paul Grubb, Dave Waters, Dave Cook, Chris Bardsley, Nick Wray, Pete Gatley.

Kids when they started, heavyweights when they left.

So instead of wishing you had something different to what you’ve got, it’s worth looking at what you’ve got.

See how you can rearrange the parts to fit what you want.

 

Just because that’s the way it’s always been done, doesn’t mean that’s the way it always has to be done.

STUDENTS ARE CUSTOMERS

 

In 2012, Emma Sulkowicz was raped in New York.

But not on the streets of Harlem.

She was raped in her bed, in her bedroom, in her dormitory, in her university.

The place where she should have been safer than anywhere else.

She was a freshman art student at Columbia University.

Of course she reported the rape to the university authorities.

Two other students reported it with her.

But the university authorities didn’t do anything.

So she reported the rape to the local police.

But the police didn’t do anything either.

At American colleges, cases of rape are usually treated as high spirits amongst young men.

Especially if the young men are in a fraternity or on the college football team.

The view is, it isn’t really rape as such.

Not in a nasty way.

It was probably just some drunken partying that got out of hand.

This stuff happens at college, get over it.

But Emma Sulkowicz didn’t want to get over it.

She tried for two years to get something done, but the university ignored her.

So she decided to get their attention.

She decided to make it her final art project.

The piece would be called CARRY THAT WEIGHT.

Until she graduated she would carry her mattress with her wherever she went.

To classes, to the cafeteria, to the shops, to the bathroom.

Dragging it through the halls and across campus, twenty-four seven.

Whenever anyone asked her what she was doing, she’d tell them.

The mattress was the place she was raped.

The mattress symbolised the emotional weight she must carry around for the rest of her life.

The mattress symbolised the way the university ignored the rape as if it was her problem, not theirs.

And soon every young woman on campus wanted to join in.

Wherever she went there was a crowd of young women wanting to help her carry the mattress.

And the art piece grew to be a website, with dozens of young women signing up to participate.

And then an event, a gathering of hundreds of young women bringing their own mattresses.

The event was called: CARRYING THE WEIGHT TOGETHER.

The call-to-action said “No one should carry this weight alone as we are all affected by sexual violence and rape culture at our university”.

And like any large, controversial gathering it quickly got picked up by the news media: the papers, magazines, Internet, TV stations.

Not just across New York State, but across America.

Which means Columbia University is now getting a nationwide reputation for having a rape culture.

And parents will avoid sending their daughters to the college with a reputation for a rape culture.

And, given that half the students at Columbia are female, that will jeopardise fifty percent of its entire income.

And that is when you get the attention of the university authorities.

That is when the board of governors steps in.

Not for moral reasons.

For financial reasons.

That is when you make them realise you’re not just students, you’re customers.

 

Which is really what the art piece is all about: the art of predatory thinking.

GIVE ‘EM THE OLD SOFT SOAP

 

In 1957 Dove soap started advertising for the first time.

They ran a press ad with a woman luxuriating in a bathful of bubbles.

The headline said HEAD OVER HEELS IN DOVE.

The copy had the woman saying “Dove makes me feel velvety, all soft and silky smooth. Just the most pampered, the most spoiled, girliest girl in the world”.

Advertising assumed that women were empty headed.

And all they cared about was what men thought of them.

In 1971, Dove ran an ad with a visual of a woman at a party nervously watching her husband talking to a younger woman.

The copy said “Somewhere between the vacuum cleaner and the kitchen sink you got older, and it shows.

But you can still help your skin look younger with Dove”.

Dove was always sold as a way for women to make themselves more attractive to men.

Because that was the way all soaps were sold to all women.

In fact, what made Dove different from other soaps was that it was 25% moisturising cream.

Around 1990, the client noticed Dove’s patent was about to expire.

He worried about a competitor copying their formula.

He knew Dove couldn’t carry on just saying the same as everyone else.

That was just Market Growth.

Dove’s unique advantage was about to come to an end.

Their advertising would have to work a lot harder.

Their advertising would have to be about taking Market Share.

Ogilvy put a young female creative team on the account: Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin.

Like all good creatives, they researched the product first.

They found Dove wasn’t actually a soap at all.

It had been developed during World War Two to wash the wounds of burn victims.

So unlike soaps, it was pH neutral.

(That meant it had exactly the same alkalinity as human skin.)

Most soaps are really cleansing products.

They strip away the skin’s natural moisture, similar to a household cleanser.

The scientists demonstrated it with strips of yellow litmus paper.

They laid them on bars of soap and every single one turned blue.

Then they laid a strip on Dove and it stayed yellow.

Nancy and Janet couldn’t believe Dove was keeping this fact quiet.

They immediately turned that demonstration into a TV ad.

Ending on the line DOVE WON’T DRY YOUR SKIN LIKE SOAP CAN.

They also ran it as a press ad.

The headline said DO YOU REALLY NEED A HOUSEHOLD CLEANSER TO WASH YOUR FACE?

David Ogilvy was furious, he wrote them a letter saying “Science doesn’t sell to women”.

But Nancy and Janet disagreed.

They thought women could handle a rational argument.

It was time for Dove to talk about what made Dove different.

About why you should buy it instead of other soaps.

Nancy and Janet were right.

Dove sales went through the roof.

They were right about Market Share versus Market Growth.

 

And they were right about treating women as if they had brains.

ADVERTISING IS JUST COWBOYS

 

 

Filtered cigarettes were originally only for women.

Men smoked masculine, unfiltered cigarettes.

The thinking was that men could take tobacco straight, but it would be too strong for frail women.

Delicate ladies needed a filter for a milder taste.

Plus, the cigarette paper would ruin a woman’s lipstick by sticking to it.

So, in 1924, Marlboro was launched as a woman’s cigarette.

The original advertising promised the filter would make the flavour “As mild as May”.

It also referred to the filter tips as “Beauty Tips: to keep the paper from your lips”.

To appeal to women, Marlboro had the classy, British-sounding name.

It also had a stylish red and white pack and an elegant serif typeface.

As a woman’s cigarette, Marlboro had just 1% of the market.

And that’s where it stayed, until the 1950s.

That’s when America discovered cigarettes were bad for your health.

But there was a belief that smoke inhaled through a filter would be less harmful.

So cigarette companies began advertising the benefits of filter cigarettes.

Explaining that filters could let the flavour through, but let less of the harmful tar through.

The only problem with advertising like this is that it applies to all filter cigarettes.

So it grows the market for everyone.

In Chicago, Leo Burnett were smarter than that.

They saw there was an opportunity to grow Marlboro filter sales.

But, with 1% share, they wouldn’t do that just by Market Growth advertising, they’d only do it by Market Share advertising.

Leo Burnett realised it was smart to let everyone else talk about the benefits of filter cigarettes.

And while they did that, Marlboro would talk about what made their filter cigarette different.

They’d reposition Marlboro from being a woman’s cigarette into a man’s cigarette, for tough guys.

That would establish their filter as letting more flavour through.

Which immediately repositioned all other filter cigarettes as having less flavour.

And to prove it they’d have men in tough jobs smoking Marlboro.

Construction workers, ship’s captains, war correspondents, even cowboys.

Of course, cowboys outperformed all the rest.

Especially with the line COME TO WHERE THE FLAVOUR IS: COME TO MARLBORO COUNTRY.

Suddenly it was okay for men to smoke filter tips.

Because Marlboro, even with filter tips, was a cigarette for real men.

In just two years Marlboro sales grew by 300%.

Fifteen years later, Marlboro was the biggest selling cigarette in the entire world.

Now Marlboro, along with Coke, and Levis, and McDonalds, and Harley Davidson is an American icon.

One of the most powerful brands on the planet.

All by understanding the difference between Market Growth and Market Share advertising.

 

That’s predatory thinking.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LOOKING AND SEEING

 

When Andrew Bastawrous was a little boy, he was failing most of his classes at school.

Then one day he had an eye test.

The optician found that he couldn’t see the blackboard properly.

Andrew didn’t know this, he assumed everyone else saw the same.

When his poor eyesight was diagnosed he was given glasses.

Now he could see the blackboard everyone else saw.

Immediately his marks changed, he became the top in the class.

That lesson stayed with Andrew his whole life.

He went on to specialise in ophthalmology at Leeds University.

For his PhD he monitored eye disease amongst 5,000 people in Kenya.

He took $160,000 worth of optical equipment in two trucks, and a team of 15 people.

That’s when he discovered the real problem.

In poor countries, around 285 million people suffer visual impairment.

39 million of those are blind. But 80% of that blindness is curable.

If you can find it.

And that’s the real problem.

Most of these people live in such remote villages the trucks couldn’t even get there.

Even if they could, there was no electricity.

The equipment would have to run on generators, which used huge amounts of petrol.

Andrew Boutawrous had a problem he couldn’t solve.

So he got upstream and changed it to a problem he could solve.

He knew these villages were very poor.

Most of them didn’t even have clean drinking water.

But one thing every village did have, however poor.

A mobile phone.

And Andrew thought, a mobile phone has apps that can do anything.

Checking train times, sharing photos, finding map locations.

Why can’t we develop an app that does eye tests?

And he developed an app to photograph the eye, and test for diseases.

It costs $500, less than 1% of conventional equipment.

It can photograph the retina at the back of the eye.

The photographs can be sent directly to Moorefields Eye Hospital in London, where the condition can be diagnosed.

Treatment can be prescribed immediately.

The phone can be carried anywhere, with solar charging panels in a backpack.

Even where there are no roads the patient can be located using the phone’s GPS.

It doesn’t need two trucks and a team of fifteen people. It doesn’t even need a doctor.

Anyone can be trained to use it in five minutes.

The results can be sent via email to London, and analysed by a team of specialists.

It doesn’t matter what language the patient speaks.

It doesn’t matter how old the patient is.

The phone uses symbols to communicate and eye-tracking to monitor.

And, in villages without roads in Kenya, there are now people who are seeing for the first time in years.

Because Andrew Bastawrous identified a problem he couldn’t solve, got upstream and changed it into a problem he could solve.

 

Predatory thinking doesn’t have to be predatory.

PURPOSE BEYOND PROFIT

 

A J Lovewins was living on the streets of Seattle for five years.

He managed to get off the streets by helping run a soup kitchen.

For people, like himself, who just needed a break.

He also ran a programme for musicians who were trying to get a break.

Then he noticed something: the musicians couldn’t get any exposure, the homeless people couldn’t get any work.

Both groups were stuck.

The homeless had nothing coming in, the musicians had nothing going out.

Something clicked in his brain.

What if you put the two groups together?

He persuaded a local recording studio to record a track from each of the musicians, for free.

He now had a compilation CD of Seattle-based artists.

Then he started recruiting the homeless.

They could have 3 CDs free, which they would sell for $10 each.

They would keep all that money.

Then they could buy more CDs at $2 each, sell them at $10 and keep all that profit.

Homeless people began doing it.

What did they have to lose, the first 3 CDs were free?

When they saw how easily they made $30, they bought fifteen more CDs with that money.

Which they then sold for $150.

They were in business.

More importantly, they were off the streets.

People around Seattle happily bought the CDs to help local musicians.

But in fact, they were helping two groups of people at once: the musicians and the homeless.

That first CD made around $50,000 profit for homeless people.

He made a second CD, this one was distributed by the homeless in 3 cities: Seattle, San Francisco, and St Louis.

This time the CD made $100,000 profit for homeless people.

The project is called Harmonic Humanity, and he wants to raise money to help fund it in five cities, including Los Angeles.

What makes it different to any other charity is every dollar donated pays for a record to be made.

That record sells to the homeless for $2, the homeless sell that record for $10.

So every dollar donated generates $8 directly to homeless people.

They get the money they need for food, clothing, and shelter.

Meanwhile the musicians get the exposure they need.

When the programme expands to LA, the media capital, who knows who will hear their music?

Directors, producers, promoters, ad agencies.

That’s how it works: homeless people get a break, musicians get a break.

Two minuses make a plus.

That’s what I love: things start to happen when people get off their arses.

For sure, nothing happens when they don’t.

 

 

But when you set the game up right, everybody wins.

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