WHAT DOES ED KNOW THAT WE DON’T?

For me, one of the best copywriters ever is Ed McCabe.
Recently he was interviewed about advertising.
As always, Ed hit the nail on the head with a pile driver.

“Ed McCabe said: “I have a theory that comes from the smoking era. Suppose you need a light.
If you walk up to someone on a busy street and say, ‘Excuse me sir, I don’t want to be a nuisance, but I wonder if I could bother you for a moment?’ they’re gone.
But if you come right out and say, ‘Got a match?’ you get your light.”
When asked about today’s advertising, Mr. McCabe referred to the broad use of social networking, and he stressed that the objective of advertising is to sell a product.


“Right now we have a situation where ad agencies are screwing around, trying to embrace technologies that they don’t quite understand, trying to prove they are with it,” he said.
“The world is full of these people dancing from foot to foot, but there aren’t many of us coming up and saying, ‘Got a match?’ ”

Ed gets it.
When I was younger I had one of Ed’s quotes on the wall behind my desk.

“Any ad that doesn’t cause a ruckus is a lousy ad.
I’m constantly in trouble and I think that’s proof of my worth.”

Ed understands we don’t work in limbo.
We work in a context, and that context is a blizzard of over-communication.
£18.3 billion a year spent on all forms of advertising and marketing in the UK.
4% remembered positively.
7% remembered negatively.
89% not noticed or remembered.
So shouldn’t that be our primary focus, to be noticed and remembered?
To stand out.
To cause a fuss.
Ed knew the job is to get noticed and remembered.
Without that you have no chance of being acted upon.
So Ed’s purpose in getting into trouble is to get noticed amongst the sea of bland waffle.
If you can be outrageous, controversial, confrontational, you have more chance of getting noticed.
Not least because your competitor spends their media money answering you back.
If your competition isn’t doing that, it probably means your advertising isn’t upsetting them.
Which means they feel safe in ignoring it.
If your competition can ignore your ads, how can they be working?
But there’s a hiatus in advertising at present.
If we concentrate on execution we can make nice films without upsetting anyone.
So we spend a lot more money making dull ideas slicker.
Better props, better lenses, better lighting, better actors, more CG.
It’ll even win awards.
Because everyone’s concentrating on the execution, it will be a nice piece of film.
It just won’t be an ad.
Not in the sense that Ed McCabe is talking about.
There’s a David Ogilvy quote I always liked:

“When Aeschines spoke, they said ‘How well he speaks.’
But when Demosthenes spoke, they said ‘Let us march.”

Advertising today is Aeschines.
Ed McCabe is Demsothenes.

  • J D

    Ed McCabe
    is one of the copywriters I respect the most. In a recent interview about
    advertising, he nailed it.

    “I have a
    theory that comes from the smoking era,” he said. “Suppose you need a light.
    If you walk up to someone on a busy street and say, ‘Excuse me sir, I don’t
    want to be a nuisance, but I wonder if I could bother you for a moment?’
    they’re gone.

    “But if
    you come right out and say, ‘Got a match?’ you get your light.”

    When
    asked about today’s advertising world, McCabe referred to the broad use of
    social networking. He stressed something that I think parts of the industry
    have forgotten: the objective of advertising is to sell a product.

    “Right
    now we have a situation where ad agencies are screwing around, trying to
    embrace technologies that they don’t quite understand, trying to prove they are
    with it,” he said. “The world is full of these people dancing from foot to
    foot, but there aren’t many of us coming up and saying, ‘Got a match?’ ”

    I think
    he’s hit the nail on the head with a pile driver. Ed gets it.

    For a
    long time, one of Ed’s quotes adorned the wall behind my desk, and it’s stuck
    with me ever since. “Any ad that doesn’t cause a ruckus is a lousy ad. I’m
    constantly in trouble and I think that’s proof of my worth.”

    He
    understands that advertising, and our industry, doesn’t work in limbo. We work
    in a context, and that context is a blizzard of over-communication. £18.3
    billion a year spent on all forms of advertising and marketing in the UK. 4%
    remembered positively, 7% remembered negatively. And 89% isn’t noticed or
    remembered – regardless of how cool/social/tactile/engaging we think it is.

    Is our
    primary focus no longer to get noticed and be remembered? To stand out; to cause
    a fuss?

    After all,
    without being noticed and remembered, you have no chance of being acted upon. Ed’s
    purpose in getting into trouble is to get noticed amongst the sea of bland
    waffle; a noisy, fuzzy, defragmented world.

    If you can
    be outrageous, controversial and confrontational, you have more chance of
    getting noticed. Not just because your competitor spends their media money
    answering you back – and if your competition isn’t doing that, it probably
    means your advertising isn’t upsetting them. Which means they feel safe in
    ignoring it. If your competition can ignore your ads, how can they be working?

    There’s
    an obvious hiatus in advertising at the moment. If we concentrate on execution
    we can make nice films without upsetting anyone – we spend a lot more money
    making dull ideas slicker with better props, better lenses, better lighting,
    better actors, more CG – and hey, it could even win awards.

    Because
    everyone’s concentrating on the execution, it will probably be a nice piece of
    film; not just an ad. Not in the sense that Ed McCabe is talking about.

    There’s a
    David Ogilvy quote I always liked:

    “When
    Aeschines spoke, they said ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke,
    they said ‘Let us march.”

    Advertising
    today is Aeschines. Ed McCabe is Demsothenes.
     

    OMG, paragraphs and sentences!

  • Dave Trott

    Nicely done JD.
    You’ve just demonstrated Ed’s point for him.

  • Jeremy Baker

    Brings to mind
    An army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep.Alexander the Great (attributed)

  • paul c-c

    Volvos come in blue, green, white, yellow and red. No rust.
    Genius

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