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THE DESPERATION AWARDS

 

It was one of the biggest advertising awards shows in New York.

But that year it didn’t start off well.

There were no tickets at the door for the people who’d ordered them.

Everyone looked around for help.

But there were no staff to help anyone.

The awards were ready and waiting, all stacked up on stage.

The food and drink was all laid out in the huge hall.

There were waiters and catering staff handing out drinks.

But there wasn’t anyone, anywhere from the awards organisation.

So people just came in and stood around.

They stood around chatting, drinking, waiting for the presentation of the awards to begin.

They waited for two hours, but nothing happened.

Eventually a man went onstage, he took the microphone.

He said this wasn’t his job, but as there was no one else around he’d try to give out the awards, if someone would give him a list of who should get what.

But there wasn’t anyone around who had a list.

So he said sorry he couldn’t help, and walked off the stage.

Then a drunk lumbered onto the stage.

He said he didn’t have a list either, but he had an idea.

He said let’s show the slides of the work that’s won, then whoever recognises that work, come up and take your award.

And, in an amateurish fashion, it seemed to work.

He’d show a slide, there would be some murmuring in the audience, someone would come on stage and look to see which award had their name on it, and they’d take it away.

As an advertising industry showpiece, it was a shambles.

And it got worse.

Being drunk, the man onstage fancied himself as an entertainer.

He told the band to play, and he began singing to the audience.

But they weren’t there to hear a drunk singing.

They booed and threw bread rolls.

Eventually the drunk got the message and left the stage.

Trouble was, now there wasn’t anyone to show the slides.

Now there was no way to work out who had won what.

One man suspected he might have won something, so he came on stage and started sorting through the awards.

He found one with his name on it and took it away.

Two more men saw this, they went up onstage and began sorting through the awards, looking for their names.

They seemed to find them because they took two away.

The entire audience was watching this, feeling they were missing out.

If other people were grabbing awards why shouldn’t they?

And it triggered a stampede.

The audience rushed the stage and everyone grabbed for the awards.

There wasn’t time to read the names on the base-plates.

You just had to grab one and run.

Before someone else barged you aside and grabbed it off you.

And all the awards were snatched by the wrong people.

People who hadn’t won anything.

People who just wanted an award.

Any award.

It never occurred to them that it was worthless without their name on it.

And that was the 1991 New York Clio Awards.

Known as “The Most Bizarre Event in Advertising History”.

It demonstrates something that’s always just below the surface.

 

Lots of people are more desperate for advertising awards than they are to do advertising.

READING SETS YOU FREE

 

The problem with all prisons worldwide is overcrowding.

New prisoners come in, but the old ones keep coming back.

And all their time inside is spent with other criminals.

That’s their environment, that’s their only world.

But how do you change that?

How do you rehabilitate them, when there’s no incentive for them to change?

How do you show them there is world outside that isn’t just about crime?

A world with more possibilities.

How do you get them to want to learn about that?

You need to find a way to incentivise them.

To make them want to learn.

In Brazil that’s just what they are doing.

They have a programme called Redemption Through Reading.

When a prisoner reads a book, they get four days off their sentence.

Simple as that.

The books are from an approved list: literary, philosophical, and scientific.

They get a month to read it and write an essay showing they understood it.

The essay needs to “use legible joined-up writing, and be free of corrections”.

They can do this with up to twelve books a year.

Which means, in just one year they can get up to 7 weeks off their sentence.

They can get as much as a year off a seven-year sentence.

Up to two years off a fourteen-year sentence.

So there’s a practical reason to read books, to get out of prison earlier.

And while prisoners are doing that, they learn that another way of living exists.

They learn the habit of reading books to acquire knowledge.

They learn there are other possibilities in the outside world.

Sao Paolo lawyer, Andre Kehdi, runs a book donation project for prisons.

He said “This way a person can leave prison more enlightened and with an enlarged view of the world.

Without doubt they will leave a better person”.

But does it work?

Guardian columnist Erwin James thinks it does.

He was a convicted murderer, serving life in an English prison.

Reading books transformed him as a person, and he was released after serving twenty years of a life sentence.

In The Guardian, he writes: “The books I read in prison didn’t get me a reduction in time, but they helped me become the person I always should have been”.

The books which initially had most impact on him were, of course, about prison:

Prisoners of Honour (The Dreyfuss ‘Devil’s Island’ prison).

Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky

One Day In the Life Of Ivan Denisovith by Solzhenitsyn

Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan

These were books which helped him see his own situation in a new light.

Books which helped him understand it and, more importantly, to turn it around.

These books lead him into the wider world of literature.

Erwin James has now written two best-selling books of his own, and does work for charities as well as writing a column for The Guardian.

All because he started reading books in prison.

The purpose of a prison shouldn’t just be locking people away, that’s inefficient.

It should be about changing behaviour.

 

 

That’s what reading can do.

YOU WIN NOTHING WITH KIDS

 

I was always good at training youngsters.

I kept it simple.

I kept it powerful.

I kept it consistent.

But what made me good with youngsters made me bad with heavyweights.

They don’t want any of those things.

They want to do it their way.

So it didn’t look like I could ever be a creative director.

Because all creative depts were made from middle and heavyweights.

They did all the serious advertising.

The youngsters were only allowed to do trade ads and small space ads.

Everyone told me I should be a teacher instead.

Because that’s where you train youngsters.

But I didn’t want to be a teacher.

Training youngsters to be really good, then watching them go off and work for someone else.

I wanted them to work for me.

I had to look at what I’d got versus what I wanted.

And what I was good at wasn’t what I wanted.

So how can I rearrange the pieces so it works?

I can’t run a conventional creative department.

But what about an unconventional creative department?

What if I trained youngsters to be the entire creative department?

The youngsters would want to do it the way I wanted it done.

We wouldn’t fight because they’d been trained that way.

And it made financial sense.

I could get five teams of youngsters for the cost of a single heavyweight team.

Ten teams of youngsters for the cost of two heavyweight teams.

All those youngsters must be able to do more work.

And in a few years they’ll be as good as the heavyweights.

But much cheaper and much less aggravation.

And that was how Gordon Smith and I built GGT’s creative department.

All kids, all wanting to be trained.

It seems obvious now, but at the time it was unheard of.

Even John Webster said so in Campaign. “Trott’s very good with juniors, but he’ll struggle when he has to hire middle and heavyweight teams. He can’t work with them.”

It was advertising’s version of Alan Hansen’s “You’ll never win anything with kids”.

Well, it depends on the kids.

It depends on the training.

We won huge amounts of new business; we won many, many awards.

We were voted Campaign’s agency of the year.

New York’s Ad Age voted us ‘The most creative agency in the world’.

We became a publicly quoted company on the stock exchange.

But what I liked best was it was done with a creative dept full of kids.

Kids that would have been doing trade ads anywhere else.

Most of them went on to become ECDs or open their own agencies.

Steve Henry, Axel Chaldecott, Kate Stanners, Tim Hearn, Damon Collins, Mary Wear, John Pallant, Paul Grubb, Dave Waters, Dave Cook, Chris Bardsley, Nick Wray, Pete Gatley.

Kids when they started, heavyweights when they left.

So instead of wishing you had something different to what you’ve got, it’s worth looking at what you’ve got.

See how you can rearrange the parts to fit what you want.

 

Just because that’s the way it’s always been done, doesn’t mean that’s the way it always has to be done.

STUDENTS ARE CUSTOMERS

 

In 2012, Emma Sulkowicz was raped in New York.

But not on the streets of Harlem.

She was raped in her bed, in her bedroom, in her dormitory, in her university.

The place where she should have been safer than anywhere else.

She was a freshman art student at Columbia University.

Of course she reported the rape to the university authorities.

Two other students reported it with her.

But the university authorities didn’t do anything.

So she reported the rape to the local police.

But the police didn’t do anything either.

At American colleges, cases of rape are usually treated as high spirits amongst young men.

Especially if the young men are in a fraternity or on the college football team.

The view is, it isn’t really rape as such.

Not in a nasty way.

It was probably just some drunken partying that got out of hand.

This stuff happens at college, get over it.

But Emma Sulkowicz didn’t want to get over it.

She tried for two years to get something done, but the university ignored her.

So she decided to get their attention.

She decided to make it her final art project.

The piece would be called CARRY THAT WEIGHT.

Until she graduated she would carry her mattress with her wherever she went.

To classes, to the cafeteria, to the shops, to the bathroom.

Dragging it through the halls and across campus, twenty-four seven.

Whenever anyone asked her what she was doing, she’d tell them.

The mattress was the place she was raped.

The mattress symbolised the emotional weight she must carry around for the rest of her life.

The mattress symbolised the way the university ignored the rape as if it was her problem, not theirs.

And soon every young woman on campus wanted to join in.

Wherever she went there was a crowd of young women wanting to help her carry the mattress.

And the art piece grew to be a website, with dozens of young women signing up to participate.

And then an event, a gathering of hundreds of young women bringing their own mattresses.

The event was called: CARRYING THE WEIGHT TOGETHER.

The call-to-action said “No one should carry this weight alone as we are all affected by sexual violence and rape culture at our university”.

And like any large, controversial gathering it quickly got picked up by the news media: the papers, magazines, Internet, TV stations.

Not just across New York State, but across America.

Which means Columbia University is now getting a nationwide reputation for having a rape culture.

And parents will avoid sending their daughters to the college with a reputation for a rape culture.

And, given that half the students at Columbia are female, that will jeopardise fifty percent of its entire income.

And that is when you get the attention of the university authorities.

That is when the board of governors steps in.

Not for moral reasons.

For financial reasons.

That is when you make them realise you’re not just students, you’re customers.

 

Which is really what the art piece is all about: the art of predatory thinking.

GIVE ‘EM THE OLD SOFT SOAP

 

In 1957 Dove soap started advertising for the first time.

They ran a press ad with a woman luxuriating in a bathful of bubbles.

The headline said HEAD OVER HEELS IN DOVE.

The copy had the woman saying “Dove makes me feel velvety, all soft and silky smooth. Just the most pampered, the most spoiled, girliest girl in the world”.

Advertising assumed that women were empty headed.

And all they cared about was what men thought of them.

In 1971, Dove ran an ad with a visual of a woman at a party nervously watching her husband talking to a younger woman.

The copy said “Somewhere between the vacuum cleaner and the kitchen sink you got older, and it shows.

But you can still help your skin look younger with Dove”.

Dove was always sold as a way for women to make themselves more attractive to men.

Because that was the way all soaps were sold to all women.

In fact, what made Dove different from other soaps was that it was 25% moisturising cream.

Around 1990, the client noticed Dove’s patent was about to expire.

He worried about a competitor copying their formula.

He knew Dove couldn’t carry on just saying the same as everyone else.

That was just Market Growth.

Dove’s unique advantage was about to come to an end.

Their advertising would have to work a lot harder.

Their advertising would have to be about taking Market Share.

Ogilvy put a young female creative team on the account: Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin.

Like all good creatives, they researched the product first.

They found Dove wasn’t actually a soap at all.

It had been developed during World War Two to wash the wounds of burn victims.

So unlike soaps, it was pH neutral.

(That meant it had exactly the same alkalinity as human skin.)

Most soaps are really cleansing products.

They strip away the skin’s natural moisture, similar to a household cleanser.

The scientists demonstrated it with strips of yellow litmus paper.

They laid them on bars of soap and every single one turned blue.

Then they laid a strip on Dove and it stayed yellow.

Nancy and Janet couldn’t believe Dove was keeping this fact quiet.

They immediately turned that demonstration into a TV ad.

Ending on the line DOVE WON’T DRY YOUR SKIN LIKE SOAP CAN.

They also ran it as a press ad.

The headline said DO YOU REALLY NEED A HOUSEHOLD CLEANSER TO WASH YOUR FACE?

David Ogilvy was furious, he wrote them a letter saying “Science doesn’t sell to women”.

But Nancy and Janet disagreed.

They thought women could handle a rational argument.

It was time for Dove to talk about what made Dove different.

About why you should buy it instead of other soaps.

Nancy and Janet were right.

Dove sales went through the roof.

They were right about Market Share versus Market Growth.

 

And they were right about treating women as if they had brains.

ADVERTISING IS JUST COWBOYS

 

 

Filtered cigarettes were originally only for women.

Men smoked masculine, unfiltered cigarettes.

The thinking was that men could take tobacco straight, but it would be too strong for frail women.

Delicate ladies needed a filter for a milder taste.

Plus, the cigarette paper would ruin a woman’s lipstick by sticking to it.

So, in 1924, Marlboro was launched as a woman’s cigarette.

The original advertising promised the filter would make the flavour “As mild as May”.

It also referred to the filter tips as “Beauty Tips: to keep the paper from your lips”.

To appeal to women, Marlboro had the classy, British-sounding name.

It also had a stylish red and white pack and an elegant serif typeface.

As a woman’s cigarette, Marlboro had just 1% of the market.

And that’s where it stayed, until the 1950s.

That’s when America discovered cigarettes were bad for your health.

But there was a belief that smoke inhaled through a filter would be less harmful.

So cigarette companies began advertising the benefits of filter cigarettes.

Explaining that filters could let the flavour through, but let less of the harmful tar through.

The only problem with advertising like this is that it applies to all filter cigarettes.

So it grows the market for everyone.

In Chicago, Leo Burnett were smarter than that.

They saw there was an opportunity to grow Marlboro filter sales.

But, with 1% share, they wouldn’t do that just by Market Growth advertising, they’d only do it by Market Share advertising.

Leo Burnett realised it was smart to let everyone else talk about the benefits of filter cigarettes.

And while they did that, Marlboro would talk about what made their filter cigarette different.

They’d reposition Marlboro from being a woman’s cigarette into a man’s cigarette, for tough guys.

That would establish their filter as letting more flavour through.

Which immediately repositioned all other filter cigarettes as having less flavour.

And to prove it they’d have men in tough jobs smoking Marlboro.

Construction workers, ship’s captains, war correspondents, even cowboys.

Of course, cowboys outperformed all the rest.

Especially with the line COME TO WHERE THE FLAVOUR IS: COME TO MARLBORO COUNTRY.

Suddenly it was okay for men to smoke filter tips.

Because Marlboro, even with filter tips, was a cigarette for real men.

In just two years Marlboro sales grew by 300%.

Fifteen years later, Marlboro was the biggest selling cigarette in the entire world.

Now Marlboro, along with Coke, and Levis, and McDonalds, and Harley Davidson is an American icon.

One of the most powerful brands on the planet.

All by understanding the difference between Market Growth and Market Share advertising.

 

That’s predatory thinking.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LOOKING AND SEEING

 

When Andrew Bastawrous was a little boy, he was failing most of his classes at school.

Then one day he had an eye test.

The optician found that he couldn’t see the blackboard properly.

Andrew didn’t know this, he assumed everyone else saw the same.

When his poor eyesight was diagnosed he was given glasses.

Now he could see the blackboard everyone else saw.

Immediately his marks changed, he became the top in the class.

That lesson stayed with Andrew his whole life.

He went on to specialise in ophthalmology at Leeds University.

For his PhD he monitored eye disease amongst 5,000 people in Kenya.

He took $160,000 worth of optical equipment in two trucks, and a team of 15 people.

That’s when he discovered the real problem.

In poor countries, around 285 million people suffer visual impairment.

39 million of those are blind. But 80% of that blindness is curable.

If you can find it.

And that’s the real problem.

Most of these people live in such remote villages the trucks couldn’t even get there.

Even if they could, there was no electricity.

The equipment would have to run on generators, which used huge amounts of petrol.

Andrew Boutawrous had a problem he couldn’t solve.

So he got upstream and changed it to a problem he could solve.

He knew these villages were very poor.

Most of them didn’t even have clean drinking water.

But one thing every village did have, however poor.

A mobile phone.

And Andrew thought, a mobile phone has apps that can do anything.

Checking train times, sharing photos, finding map locations.

Why can’t we develop an app that does eye tests?

And he developed an app to photograph the eye, and test for diseases.

It costs $500, less than 1% of conventional equipment.

It can photograph the retina at the back of the eye.

The photographs can be sent directly to Moorefields Eye Hospital in London, where the condition can be diagnosed.

Treatment can be prescribed immediately.

The phone can be carried anywhere, with solar charging panels in a backpack.

Even where there are no roads the patient can be located using the phone’s GPS.

It doesn’t need two trucks and a team of fifteen people. It doesn’t even need a doctor.

Anyone can be trained to use it in five minutes.

The results can be sent via email to London, and analysed by a team of specialists.

It doesn’t matter what language the patient speaks.

It doesn’t matter how old the patient is.

The phone uses symbols to communicate and eye-tracking to monitor.

And, in villages without roads in Kenya, there are now people who are seeing for the first time in years.

Because Andrew Bastawrous identified a problem he couldn’t solve, got upstream and changed it into a problem he could solve.

 

Predatory thinking doesn’t have to be predatory.

PURPOSE BEYOND PROFIT

 

A J Lovewins was living on the streets of Seattle for five years.

He managed to get off the streets by helping run a soup kitchen.

For people, like himself, who just needed a break.

He also ran a programme for musicians who were trying to get a break.

Then he noticed something: the musicians couldn’t get any exposure, the homeless people couldn’t get any work.

Both groups were stuck.

The homeless had nothing coming in, the musicians had nothing going out.

Something clicked in his brain.

What if you put the two groups together?

He persuaded a local recording studio to record a track from each of the musicians, for free.

He now had a compilation CD of Seattle-based artists.

Then he started recruiting the homeless.

They could have 3 CDs free, which they would sell for $10 each.

They would keep all that money.

Then they could buy more CDs at $2 each, sell them at $10 and keep all that profit.

Homeless people began doing it.

What did they have to lose, the first 3 CDs were free?

When they saw how easily they made $30, they bought fifteen more CDs with that money.

Which they then sold for $150.

They were in business.

More importantly, they were off the streets.

People around Seattle happily bought the CDs to help local musicians.

But in fact, they were helping two groups of people at once: the musicians and the homeless.

That first CD made around $50,000 profit for homeless people.

He made a second CD, this one was distributed by the homeless in 3 cities: Seattle, San Francisco, and St Louis.

This time the CD made $100,000 profit for homeless people.

The project is called Harmonic Humanity, and he wants to raise money to help fund it in five cities, including Los Angeles.

What makes it different to any other charity is every dollar donated pays for a record to be made.

That record sells to the homeless for $2, the homeless sell that record for $10.

So every dollar donated generates $8 directly to homeless people.

They get the money they need for food, clothing, and shelter.

Meanwhile the musicians get the exposure they need.

When the programme expands to LA, the media capital, who knows who will hear their music?

Directors, producers, promoters, ad agencies.

That’s how it works: homeless people get a break, musicians get a break.

Two minuses make a plus.

That’s what I love: things start to happen when people get off their arses.

For sure, nothing happens when they don’t.

 

 

But when you set the game up right, everybody wins.

A BRAND TO BANK ON

 

In 1904, Amadeo Gianni spotted a gap in the market.

Many poor Sicilians seeking a new life had emigrated to America.

Some stayed in New York, but the poorer ones, the hard-working fishermen, wanted to escape the crime.

They went to San Francisco.

Amadeo Gianni knew these men, he understood them: they worked hard, they saved their money.

Gianni knew they needed a bank to keep their money safe.

But no such thing existed for Sicilian immigrants.

Banks were just for rich WASPs (white, Anglo-Saxon, protestants).

And that was the gap in the market Amadeo Gianni saw.

The gap for a bank where Sicilians would feel welcome.

He didn’t know anything about ‘branding’ but he knew the name must be something they trusted.

He opened a little shop front with a big sign outside: BANK OF ITALY.

That said to them this is your bank, not just for rich WASPs.

And the Sicilian fisherman deposited their savings.

But in 1906, San Francisco was destroyed by an earthquake.

All the buildings were flattened, there were riots and looting.

Gianni made his way through the mob on a horse and cart carrying crates of oranges.

Just a fruit-seller, no one paid any attention to him.

What they didn’t know was that hidden under the oranges was every penny of the bank’s assets.

Gianni knew that as long as he had the money he still had a bank.

He went down to the docks where the fishermen worked.

He re-opened ‘Bank of Italy’ there, just a plank across two barrels.

They needed to borrow money to rebuild their homes and businesses.

He asked how much they needed.

When they told him, he said raise half yourself then I’ll lend you the other half.

This would prove they were serious and capable.

He was always proud that every penny was repaid.

Bank of Italy grew and grew until it became the only statewide bank across California.

Now it was time to stop being a bank just for Sicilian fishermen.

He needed a brand that the all US citizens could feel was their bank, Amadeo Gianni needed to rebrand.

In 1930, he changed the name to BANK OF AMERICA.

Now it felt like it had stature, it felt like it had history and tradition.

And Gianni was right about the rebranding.

Bank of America grew so fast that, in a few decades, it would become the second largest bank in the entire USA.

One of the largest banks in the world.

In 1958 they launched the world’s first credit card.

It was called the BankAmericard.

It created the credit card market around the entire world.

Which meant it wasn’t just a credit card for Americans.

It needed rebranding.

A name to underline the freedom it gave everyone to travel with their money anywhere.

BankAmericard was renamed VISA.

Today VISA has 38% share of the world’s credit card market.

It handles 62 billion transactions a year, amounting to $4.4 trillion.

Proving what Amadeo Gianni knew all those years ago.

 

Your best advertising is your brand.

A ROSE, BY ANY OTHER NAME

 

Have you ever wondered why Bank Holidays are called that?

After all, it isn’t only the banks that get a holiday.

So is it because the holidays started with the banks?

Well yes and no.

Sir John Lubbock was a Liberal MP.

He was a reformer who wanted to improve the lot of the working class.

Which, until that time, had been poverty and misery.

The Liberal party had already made some improvements:

Children under nine were no longer allowed to work.

Children under thirteen could only work six hours a day.

Children under thirteen also had to have two hours a day schooling.

Women could work no more than ten hours a day.

But Sir John Lubbock wanted more.

He wanted something that was unheard of for poor people.

Holidays.

The only time they got off was Christmas Day and Good Friday.

Lubbock wanted them to have four more days throughout the year.

He chose: Boxing Day, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, and the first Monday in August.

But this would never get through the House of Commons.

Most of the MPs, particularly the Conservatives, were landowners and industrialists.

The moneyed classes, who didn’t see why the work-shy lower classes should get time off to laze around and do nothing but sleep and drink.

It could start a trend.

They would start wanting more and more time off for more and more pay.

Until it became impossible for the ruling classes to keep the factories open at a profit.

Giving the working class time off would be taking money straight out of their employers’ pockets.

They’d never vote for it, Sir John Lubbock knew that.

But he also knew that the banks needed to close at various times during the year.

They needed to suspend transactions while they got their books in order.

And of course, lots of the MPs were bankers themselves, they could understand that.

So John Lubbock presented his bill as The Bank Holidays Act 1871.

It went through Parliament pretty much on the nod.

Most of the MPs who would have voted against public holidays didn’t even bother turning up to vote.

The Bank Holidays Act was passed.

The MPs had no idea how important this innocent sounding act was.

But Sir John Lubbock knew, if the banks were formally closed no business could be done.

A day off was inevitable for everyone.

And now it had passed into law.

Sir John Lubbock regarded it as his greatest political achievement.

He said “If we had called our bill the “General Holiday Bill” or the “National Holiday Bill” I doubt that it would have been approved. But the more modest name the “Bank Holiday Bill” attracted no attention”.

Thanks to Sir John Lubbock, most of us who now work for a living take holiday entitlement for granted.

Because he got upstream and changed a problem he couldn’t solve into one he could.

That’s predatory thinking.

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