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.