What good is outrage

Recently, Steve Henry and I separately wrote that creatives naturally enjoy getting into trouble, and that’s a good thing.

In our terms, trouble means creating controversy. Controversy means people will take sides. Which means discussion and debate and consequently free media.

I gave some examples of this, and how well it had worked. Then Tod Norman wrote in to say that all the examples I had given “had generated no income.”

He went on to say that this “proves that outrage engages, but does not create profit.”

I think that’s an interesting point, and worth debating. Outrage for its own sake isn’t what we do. Everything we do must have an objective purpose. Otherwise it’s merely decorative, not functional.

It didn’t occur to me to at the time to choose examples that had generated profit. I see the job of the creatives as maximising the effect of the spend.

Our job is to deliver the strategy as loudly and memorably as possible. So that we generate many times more media than we’re paying for. But it did make me think.

Did any of the examples I gave actually generate income? Well LWT certainly.

We didn’t even have the actual LWT account. Just the trade budget that they usually spent in Campaign and Marketing.

Mike Gold persuaded them to put it on 48 sheet posters and run them next to ad agencies.

The controversial campaign caused outrage, and won lots of awards. Normally this wouldn’t matter. But in this case it got LWT talked about inside agencies much more.

Which got it on the media department’s radar. Which caused advertising spend to shift from their rival, Thames TV.

So yes, outrage generated profit. The Cadbury’s campaign I mentioned worked well, too. Crème Eggs were only available between Christmas and Easter. Stock that wasn’t sold hung around until next year. By which time they didn’t look so appetising. So we had to get people buying them at times other than Easter.

Planning told us everyone had an individual way of eating Creme Eggs. So we found a way to make and run six 48 sheet posters for the price of one. This meant we could run a campaign with cheeky rhymes like, ‘Give It A Suck, Chuck’, ‘Stick It in Your Gob, Bob’, ‘Give It a Lick, Mick’.

They got into the language and made the product more current. So much so, that you can now buy Crème Eggs all year round. Another time controversy was good for Cadburys was the Flake ad that. Gordon Smith and Dave Waters made.

A skimpily dressed girl was perspiring and sensuously eating a Flake, while a lizard clambered over a ringing phone.

It was so erotic, even Spitting Image lampooned it. They showed a man entering a porn shop and asking for ‘something really hard core”. He’s offered some magazines like ‘Screw’ and ‘Hustler’.

He says, “No, something really hard core, like the new Cadburys Flake ad.”

They throw him out of the porn shop in disgust. Dominic Cadbury, was so outraged, he wanted to pull it straight away. (The ad that is.)

Then the marketing department explained to him that they’d had to turn another product line over to making Flakes. Just to satisfy demand.

Another instance would be the Saatchi gallery in North London. There was a photographic exhibition of snapshots of a family. It was innocuous, not to say dull, and not many people went to it.

Then someone (we can speculate who) called the police to complain that the children were naked in some of the photographs. The police closed the exhibition down.

Immediately many media celebrities (we can speculate who prompted them) protested this infringement of the artist’s creative rights.

The police were forced to reopen the exhibition. And hundreds of people came to see what all the fuss was about. It was one of the most successful exhibits in the gallery’s history.

And that’s a gallery you had to pay several quid to enter. For another example, ask Steve Henry about Tango’s advertising. Tango was a moribund orange drink when his agency got the account.

HHCL’s first commercial showed a little fat orange man slapping someone’s ears with both hands. Newspapers carried stories that parents and schools were outraged at the damage done to children’s ears. Tango seemed anti-establishment and even rebellious. Sales went through the roof.

Another example would be London Docklands advertising. They were going nowhere as a development site. They were being made to look really bad by Milton Keynes’ advertising.

Their commercials showed beautiful fields, cows, trees, and happy families. They made Docklands look gritty and urban.

We figured we’d reposition Milton Keynes as the place to play. And show London Docklands as the place to work.

So we ran a campaign for London Docklands with the line, “Why move to the middle of nowhere, when you can move to the middle of London?”

The Environment Minister and a group of 11 MPs were so outraged they tried to ban the advertising. They failed because the ads were shot and the media already paid for. The ads ran, and London Docklands now has the tallest buildings in Europe.

And Milton Keynes still has fields, cows, and trees.

  • Rob Mortimer

    Amen to that lot.

  • Thomas Heginbotham

    On a related note, what do you make of this?

  • Dave Trott

    Hi Thomas,
    Yup I think that’s what Charlie did with his gallery.
    He’ll pull stunts, which is actually just what good advertising is.
    Smart thinking.
    Everyone has ideas like that, but only Charlie has the nerve to do them.

  • Tod Norman


    Glad to know that I stimulated you to write this post; but I before I get flamed by your readers as being a boring old fart, I’d like a brief rebutal.

    The key real difference between us is in the definition of the role of advertising; you define it as ‘maximising the effect of spend/deliver the strategy as loudly and memorably as possible’. I would define it, as I believe Ogilvy did, as ‘what you do when you can’t afford to send a salesman.’

    This doesn’t mean I don’t believe in brand advertising; it simply means tha, as you say yourself, ‘everything must have an objective purpose’.

    Two examples, one from above.

    In your previous post, you mentioned the Cadbury campaign in the specific context of one particular execution offending the Indian continent and inspring threats to Cadbury’s factories. Well, that created outrage. And maybe, if the factories didn’t get burned, the insurance premiums didn’t rise, and there wasn’t a boycott of Cadbury’s by the offended ethnic group, then this execution was a good execution. .

    But above you discuss the creme egg campaign’s other executions: and they are simply great adverts. So to me they are superior; they generate interest, buzz, and sales without threats to life and limb.

    Campaigns like Meerkats today ( or ‘Hello Tosh’, or ‘You’ll be amazed at a Mazda’, or ‘On and on’, or even ‘Where’s the beef’) were and are ‘rebelllious’ ads that enter our vernacular – and it thats the rebelliousness you applaud, then we agree.

    But where we differ is the idea that aiming to (and indeed succeeding) at creating outrage in people is a useful objective, even for third sector brands. Creating outrage is relatively easy: be nasty, be cutting, be unfair, nuke the whales. My teenagers create outrage in me all the time.

    But it doesn’t get them what they want.

    I look at with the weariness of someone who demonstrated both against the Vietnam war and the Irag war; millions of people expresssed our outrage, and nothing happened. The same thing often happens with thrid sector advertising; ads invoking outrage get talked about, but generate little in policy change or income for the organisations that, with donations, can help people on the ground.

    My point is that the rebellious nature of creatives is to be applauded and nurtured but focused on achieveing valuable goals rather than celebrated as a goal in and of itself.

    In that, I think we probably agree.

  • Rob Mortimer

    Sounds like you do agree Tom!

    Thanks for reminding of one of my favourite Simpsons lines too: “Nuke the Whales??” “Gotta nuke something…”

  • http://www.fecundfundraising.blogspot.com Ian Atkinson

    re: Rod Mortimer

    It’s ‘Tod’, not ‘Tom’. One of the founders of WPN. Former big brain at WWAV. Planning guru.

  • Rob Mortimer

    Yep, well spotted! That’s what I get for writing comments quickly..!

  • Kevin Gordon

    You mean something like this Dave?

    Dear Mr Creative Director,

    There is always one Creative who’ll

    open his mouth at the wrong time,

    say all the wrong things, and upset

    everyone at the Christmas Party.

    The wrong time seems to be around

    Christmas for some unknown reason.

    A gut full of booze and a head full of

    nonsense inspires some people to do

    their best to spoil everyone else’s fun.

    What do you do with these people?

    If you decide you’ve had enough of an

    individual, sack him and hire me.

    I know it sounds terribly hard, because

    it is. Nobody wants to sack someone

    at Christmas but some people need to be

    fired before they understand. So, in fact,

    you’re helping them get well.

    Of course, hundreds of people will be

    sacked this Christmas, so before you

    sack him, make sure I’m still available.

    If you’re not sacking anyone this

    Christmas, please pass this letter on to

    a friend of yours who will be.

    Yours sincerely
    Kevin Gordon

    WEBSITE: http://web.me.com/kevingordon/ROI/TAKE.html
    NAME: bd55unz PASSWORD: bd55unz

  • Jayne Marar

    nothing like a bit of rage to clear the old cobwebs… so much better than self help books. i also think we’re trying to quantify the unquantifiable, sometimes rage works, sometimes it doesn’t. and i’m sure there are dozens of examples to back up either argument.

    tho i do believe people who ‘resort to extreems’ are trying to create publicity for themselves.

  • Jayne Marar

    …extremes… must have been tired on friday, got letters back to front and missed some off.

  • John W.

    ‘trying to create publicity for themselves’. That’d be advertising then.

  • shed

    Merry Christmas everyone! http://langlandchristmascard.co.uk/

  • Jayne Marar

    there’s a difference between advertising ‘a product’ and advertising ‘yourself’
    i.e. selling yourself harder than the product – it’s small but it’s there. when you’re selling ‘yourself’ harder than the product, it’s not the best kind of advertising.

  • Kevin Gordon

    When you are the product of your own society that’s all you can do. They say “the truth always hurts”. I say, “I have the balls to say what I think because I’m not a nodding donkey, and right now I don’t have to cowtail to anyone like many do, so I have something rare, freedom of speech.” That’s not an attack on anyone, it’s simply a fact. I have nothing to lose. I am a natural predator.

    It’s probably cost me a great career, but it’s given me a fantastically clear conscience that means unlike some people, (whoever they may be) I don’t wake up in the middle of the night wracked with fear about tomorrow. I’m free of all that bullshit. Running an agency in these times is very tough indeed.

    I recently attended the 2009 Market Trends Survey at the CIM. My own personal outlook on the industry was already bleak, but not as bleak as the report I saw from the people still working in it. The world has changed, and sadly attitudes have changed to advertising. It just makes me laugh that some people who recently publicly announced that “advertising is dead” were the same people who started to kill it with their own greed in the first place. What goes round comes around.

    My own feeling is it has gone beyond suburban to sub-urban, and a new generation like the John’s the Jaynes and the Thomas’s of this world will be the ones young enough to struggle through it because they have the advantage of time. How new technology will connect with the grey market is the key.

    The burning embers of pure love and passion for this industry will not go away. They will always be there. However, at the end of the day, we all live in reality. The most important thing right now for people still working in the industry is to have a good time at Christmas, keep their heads down and keep their jobs for another year, and if they ignore my warning, who knows, maybe there’s hope for me too in 2010. Wishing everyone who loves and hates me a Happy Christmas.

    Do I care? “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

  • Jayne Marar

    Kevin, i don’t know who i love more you or Grilla. but don’t get the wrong idea Mrs G! i love your passion, intelligence and honesty, which all adds up to integrity in my book.

    if you’re running an agency in the near future can i come and work for you PLEASE. i love working with people who can think bigger than the next ad or quick buck. i don’t care if we make any money, if it’s real and respectful, i’ll work for free.

    it’s people like you and Dave who make advertising great, not just mediocre. what makes me sad is the idea ‘being who you are’ may have cost you work at times.

    i know what you’re talking about and i’ve seen it happen over and over in this industry (i’m not that young – tho not that old either she hastens to add :).

    being able to express your opinion freely (as long as you’re not offensive, which you couldn’t be if you tried) should be the norm.

    my brother runs a very successful publishing company, when i tell him about the stuff that goes on in advertising he can’t believe it. in publishing ‘opinions’ are positively encouraged. it’s considered odd if you don’t have a mind of your own and can’t express your thoughts without any kind of backlash.

    in fact he’s written two books, one on Happiness the other on Deception (i’ve heard they both make great Xmas gifts :) his new book is on Intimacy, which is another kind of honesty.

    Grilla, i only love you because you’re a Grilla (i know what you mean about the human condition) – tho you can be ‘all of the above’ at times too :)

    god only knows what’s going to happen, in the future, to any of us, only even he doesn’t know coz (in my opinion) he doesn’t exist. but like you Kevin and some other people i have the greatest respect for, i can only live this way, an honest and open life, because (to my mind) any other kind of life, isn’t living.

    my father is a very successful ‘self – made’ man. he started with nothing, lost everything twice, then started again at 40. because of him i’ve been lucky to live in many places with all kinds of people. i’ve been an Arabic kid, an American kid (during a civil war) and an English kid. i have friends with no money and friends with loads of money. one thing i’m sure to be true, is money does not buy you happiness.

    sorry for any typos in this blog, passionate people write fast and make typos. they make typos in life too and they don’t give a fcuk! even if they end up writing hymen 😉

  • Grilla Login

    Jayne, in the greater interest of world peace, Kevin and I have agreed to split your love 50/50.

  • Jayne Marar

    Grilla, i think Kevin’s gone on holiday. if you’re not careful you could be mistaken for a gentleman.

  • Grilla Login

    That would be some mistake.

  • Kevin Gordon

    Pwah! Grilla, have we corrupted Jayne? This is too much for a senile delinquent like me, but it does remind me of a funny story. I had a 79 year old American friend who invited me over for a week in NYC. I caught him reading a Porno book in bed and laughed. I said: “What are you doing with one of those at your age you dirty old xxxxxxx, you’ll give yourself a heart attack!”

    His reply:

    “Kevin, just because you get old doesn’t mean the desire goes away,
    it’s just that opportunities come less often.”

    Now THAT’s a Gentleman.

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