A couple of weeks back, Paul Bainsfair arranged for Adam Crozier to talk at the IPA,
Adam Crozier worked at Saatchi & Saatchi for ten years.
He went from being the media director to joint CEO.
Then, in a move that surprised everyone, he left Saatchi to become Chief Executive of the Football Association.
In short order he lowered the average age of the staff from 55 to 32.
He cut the FA’s ruling body from 91 members to just 12.
And he appointed the first ever non-English manager: Sven Goren Erickson.
Naturally, he put a lot of noses out of joint.
My wife is Chinese, her father had two wives.
This was quite conservative by the standards of the day.
When she was at school, the other children came from families of three, four, even five wives.
I remember talking to someone she’d been at school with.
He told me his father had married three sisters, one after the other.
I asked him if the sisters didn’t mind.
He laughed and said they practically arranged it.
Between 1750 and 1810 London doubled in size.
From 750,000 to one and a half million people.
It was the largest, most overcrowded city in the world.
It hadn’t grown by plan, it just happened.
Consequently there was no infrastructure for that many people.
There were no sewers in those days: every house had a cesspit.
That meant two hundred thousand cesspits all over London.
In 1979 my art director, Mike Reynolds, and I drove into Downing Street.
Mike had a VW Campervan and we parked it opposite number ten.
You could in those days.
Tourists were taking photos of us as if we were important.
It was Saturday morning and a policeman let us in.
We were there for the advertising think-tank.
What everyone forgets is that until 1979 political parties in the UK didn’t use advertising agencies.
It was seen as a cheap American gimmick.
I am constantly amazed at how we make such hard work out of what we do.
What we do is simple.
We go from A to B.
But we are petrified of a straight line.
If we were cab drivers we’d go from London to Birmingham via Cornwall.
Why are we so terrified of simplicity?
I was just interviewed by the BBC for a programme they are making for China.
The Chinese have just discovered they can be massively successful manufacturing goods competitively.
So now they need to talk to consumers.
Which means marketing and advertising.
When I was 30, Leo Burnett offered me the creative director’s job.
At the time 30 was considered too young, so I had to go to the head office in Chicago to be interviewed.
This was a new experience in corporate America for me.
I met the President in the lobby and we got on the elevator.
A secretary was drinking a can of Coke.
The President looked at her and asked “What is that?”
The entire elevator went quiet.
The secretary turned red and became flustered.
“Omigish, I am so sorry. I asked for Royal Crown Cola but they were all sold out. I am so sorry. I promise I will never happen again.”
A couple of years back there was an interesting item on the news.
A Spanish woman had just won the lottery.
An immense amount of money, around a hundred million Euros.
Naturally she was interviewed by all the media.
They wanted to know the usual.
How did she feel, how would it change her life, who would she give large chunks of cash to?
Predatory thinking is about asking the right question.
Such as, what was it that sparked the spread of skyscrapers?
Some people say the invention of concrete.
Some people say the invention of steel.
Some people say sheet-glass for the windows.
The real answer is none of these.
All these allowed people to build skyscrapers.
But the technology wasn’t the issue.
One night we were working late in the studio.
We had a pitch the next day and everyone was pulling all the finished work together.
Mark Goodwin, the studio head, was mounting some ads.
He was cutting out some foam-board with a scalpel.
Suddenly he sliced through the tip of his finger.
At BMP we had a planner called Steve Harrison.
Steve had played football to quite a high amateur level.
He was a goalkeeper.
I was talking to Steve about West Ham’s goalkeeper, Mervyn Day.
He was a big favourite with the crowd because he constantly made spectacular saves.
Steve said that wasn’t the sign of a good goalkeeper.
Steve said the fact that you had to constantly make spectacular saves, to fling yourself acrobatically across the goal, meant you were out of position.
Steve said the great goalies were the ones where the ball just seemed to come to them.
Goalkeepers like Gordon Banks.
Of course they’d occasionally have to make spectacular saves.
But most of time they made it look effortless.
They’d be constantly reading the game, covering the angles, and they’d be in the spot the ball was most likely to end up.
It didn’t look like a great save because they’d done all the work beforehand.
So they didn’t have to fling themselves across the goal.
It reminded me of an interview Jonathan Pearce, the football commentator, had with Bobby Moore.
Bobby Moore was captain of the only English team ever to win the World Cup.
Jonathan Pearce said he’d played a lot of football himself before becoming a commentator.
Bobby Moore asked him if he’d ever fancied turning professional.
Pearce said “There was no point: I couldn’t head the ball, I couldn’t run much, in fact I never crossed the halfway line.”
Bobby Moore said “Leave off, you’re talking about my career.”
Jonathan Pearce said that stopped him dead.
He thought, he’s right.
One of the greatest players in the world and he didn’t run around doing spectacular things.
But wherever he was, the ball just seemed to come to him.
Because Bobby Moore was known as perhaps the greatest reader of the game, ever.
Watching the attack develop, watching the players running off the ball, not just the player with the ball.
Seeing which of the opposition was most likely to receive the ball.
Getting into position before they did.
So the ball just seemed to come to him.
In marketing terms, he was running a constant SWOT analysis on the game for the full ninety minutes.
SWOT is a marketing tool that’s fallen out of fashion.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
More fashionable formulas have taken over.
But it seems to me most of these fashionable formulas are just flashy gimmicks, crowd pleasers.
Because a lot of marketing is out of position.
We’re not constantly reading and anticipating the game as it develops.
So we’re surprised by what crops up.
And we have to do something spectacular to try to save the situation.
But that’s not the way the great practitioners in any sport or business behave.
Worrying about the latest flashy gimmicks instead of concentrating on the fundamentals.
We should be reading the game, analysing what’s developing, and we should be in position.
Like all the greats, we should constantly be doing a SWOT analysis.
Then there wouldn’t be any surprises.
Then we wouldn’t be out of position.
Then we wouldn’t need to make any spectacular saves.