Last week I saw Maurice Saatchi misquoted in Campaign again.

It was the same misquote as always.

And that’s a shame, because this time I saw him misquoted by someone I respect.

Someone who should know better.

But people find it easier to jump on the bandwagon and use the misquote rather than the real one.

In fact I don’t think anyone even remembers the original quote.

The misquote has taken over as the truth.

The misquote is as follows:

“It’s not enough for us to win, someone else has to lose.”

That portrays Maurice Saatchi as caring only about crushing the opposition.

If it was true, it’s a quote from an arrogant, vindictive person.

But it isn’t true.

I don’t know if Maurice Saatchi is a nasty person or not, but I do know he’s smarter than that.

He cares about winning.

He cares very much about winning.

In fact, he cares too much about winning to worry about grinding other people’s faces into the dust.

That just takes time and effort away from winning.

So the misquote is silly and we learn nothing from it.

The actual quote is as follows:

“We don’t have to win, we just have to make you lose.”

This is a much smarter, much more useful quote.

It understands applied creativity in advertising.

Getting a result by predatory thinking.

If the two of us are in a race, all I have to do is get to the finish line ahead of you.

If I do that, I win.

There are two ways to do that.

1) Be faster than you.

2) Make you slower than me.

Either way, as long as I cross the line ahead of you, I win.

That’s the basis of applied creative thinking in our business.

Advertising and marketing aren’t fine art.

Always we are in a competitive situation.

Always we have to beat the competition.

We would of course prefer to win by being the best.

But what if we can’t do that?

What if the competition is faster, or bigger, or cheaper, or has better distribution, or is more fashionable?

If they are better than us, how can we claim to be better?

We can’t, it isn’t credible or legal.

And if we can’t, how can we hope to beat them?

We have to find another way.

We can’t beat them on one level, so we change the rules.

We move from a game we can’t win to one we can.

We portray their ‘faster’ as somehow dangerous or risky.

We portray ‘bigger’ as wasteful and poorly designed.

Cheaper as poor quality.

Better distribution as commonplace.

Fashionable as merely trivial.

We change their positive into a negative.

If we can’t win, we make them lose.

And, if we’re smart, we are the alternative to our portrayal of them.

The answer to the problem we’ve set up.

Think: Hertz v Avis, VW v Detroit, Coke v Pepsi, Mac v PC, Virgin v BA, Sainsbury’s v Tesco, Listerine v Scope, Tylenol v Bayer.

Everyone has to choose, all the time.

In all areas of life that’s how our brains work.

From consumers in supermarkets to clients in pitches.

Which do I choose, from the choices available?

And the key creative insight comes from understanding the second part of that question.

“From the choices available.”

If we understand the context, we can control the context.

If we control the context we stand a better chance of making the other guys lose.

In his book ‘The Perfect Pitch’,  Jon Steele put it best.

“The agency doesn’t have to have the perfect answer. It just has to portray its answer as better than the other agencies.”

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