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NOT JUST ANOTHER BEAN-COUNTER

Barry Hearn was one of the youngest people ever to become a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

But Barry Hearn was from east London.

So that added something else to his ability with numbers.

Call it creativity, call it predatory thinking, call it good old-fashioned street smarts.

He knew the numbers told you the way things are.

They didn’t tell you the way things could be.

So when Barry Hearn saw an opportunity, he didn’t just rely on the numbers.

For instance, a chain of snooker halls was going cheap, because snooker was a dying sport.

Barry Hearn bought all the halls.

In the seventies, television was changing to colour.

He was one of the first people to recognise what seems obvious now.

Colour would revolutionise sport.

Until that point all televised sport had been in black and white.

That made it hard to follow for ordinary people.

Barry Hearn realised that snooker was perfect for TV.

Because with colour, everyone could follow the game.

But the summer of 1976 was hot, no one wanted to play snooker.

So he announced a big competition, with a large cash prize and a trophy for the winner.

With the grand final in September.

Suddenly his halls were full in June, July, and August with people practicing for the tournament in September.

Barry Hearn learned you have to give people a reason to compete, a reason to care.

There has to be a winner and a loser.

He sold his snooker tournaments to the TV companies.

Then he decided he could sell boxing the same way.

It wasn’t about the skill of the sport, it was about the competition, having a reason to care.

He began creating and packaging big events to sell.

He did the same with golf.

Then he realised he could do the same with any sport.

Even darts.

No one wanted to watch a man simply throw a dart at a board.

But turn it into a sporting competition, with winners and losers, and he could package it and sell it.

With the advent of satellite and cable the need to fill TV airtime just increased.

He began to create sporting events around all sorts of pastimes that had never been considered spectator sports.

Bowling, rowing, fishing, even poker.

Simply by creating a knockout competition with winners and losers.

Ordinary people might not know anything about the skill involved, but everyone understood winning and losing.

Suddenly sports that no one cared about became watchable.

Because of the tension and the drama of competition.

You didn’t need to know the rules to get caught up in the tension.

And now Barry Hearn’s company sources forty thousand hours of TV globally each year.

Now it all seems obvious.

But it wasn’t obvious until Barry Hearn saw it.

As Bill Bernbach said “We’ve been studying the statistics for so long we forget that we can create the statistics”.

THE LADY WITH THE CHART

 

Florence Nightingale was born in 1820.

At that time women weren’t allowed to go to university.

It would be a waste, their job was to marry and look after their husband and children.

But Florence Nightingale’s father thought differently.

Not being able to send her to university, he educated her at home.

First he taught her to read and write.

Then he taught her history, philosophy, Latin, Greek and, most unusually, mathematics.

Florence was an attractive young woman and had several offers of marriage.

But she didn’t accept any of them.

Instead, during the Crimean war, she took medical training.

Then she formed and trained a unit of 38 volunteer nurses.

And in 1854 she took them to the war.

What Florence Nightingale found at the military hospital horrified her.

Wounded soldiers were dying in droves.

Death in war is to be expected, but ten times more men were dying from disease than from battle wounds.

Typhus, Typhoid, Cholera, Dysentery, and Malaria killed over four thousand soldiers in her first year.

Most of it caused by defective sewers, malnutrition, overcrowding, and lack of ventilation.

As an educated woman, she decided to change things.

She came back to London to lobby Parliament.

But she knew that whatever she wrote, most MPs wouldn’t bother reading it.

It would be too long and detailed for them and their civil servants.

She was an intelligent woman.

She knew her audience.

She needed to show facts and figures, but she needed more than that.

She needed impact.

She needed communication.

She needed persuasion.

So Florence Nightingale argued her case using information graphics.

The basic Pie Chart had been invented fifty years before.

But if she hadn’t been taught mathematics she wouldn’t have known about it.

Florence Nightingale invented a new form of pie chart.

A simple, visual presentation of facts anyone could understand.

It was so powerful that it swept through Parliament like a bolt of electricity.

Brunel was briefed to design a new hospital immediately.

The staff were trained according to Florence Nightingale’s methods.

And the death rate was cut from 42% to 2%.

Thousands of men lived who otherwise would have died needlessly.

Thanks to Florence Nightingale, the Crimean war was the last war where more British soldiers died from disease than enemy action.

Mainly because she was an intelligent woman.

Mainly because she understood her audience.

Mainly because of her powerful, simple, graphic presentation of data.

It’s not enough to have to have the right statistics, the best strategy, the correct marketing.

 

You have to have the best way to present it.

I WISH

One day at GGT I opened a letter.

It was on very stylish notepaper and it was from David Abbott.

David said he was running a spread in Campaign that week featuring my name in the headline, and he hoped I didn’t mind.

The headline on the ad said “Why it will never be David Trott and Dave Abbott”.

It was a jokey reference to GGT mainly doing working-class ads while AMV mainly did middle-class ads.

It was very nicely written  copy, as you’d expect.

Charming, witty, intelligent.

But what I couldn’t get over was that David Abbott was asking me if I minded.

If I minded having my name next to his.

Minded?

I’d have paid for the ad myself if he’d asked.

David was a hero to my generation of creatives.

He fought harder for creative standards than anyone else.

He was more intelligent and better at writing ads than we were.

He was the agency head we all wanted to work for.

The only working creative with his name on the door.

On the door of an agency that consistently did the best work.

And he wrote most of it.

And he was asking if I “minded” him putting my name next to his.

I honestly didn’t think I deserved it.

I don’t think anyone else did either.

But I wasn’t going to say that, I tried to be cool and thanked him for letting me know.

Then went out and bought every copy of Campaign.

It was better than winning a D&AD award.

To have one of my heroes do that.

David didn’t know that he was one of my heroes, that’s not the sort of thing blokes say to each other.

I’d just try to write ads that I hoped he’d notice.

David had worked in New York before I had, but we both understood Bill Bernbach’s teaching.

Tough, hard-working ads handled with wit and intelligence.

Mine were probably tougher.

David’s were certainly wittier and more intelligent.

But his ads always had a hard core of professionalism, not just showboating, not cleverness for its own sake.

David’s ads were always about selling.

But selling done with respect, and style, and intelligence.

And wit.

Wit is always the word everyone used when talking about David.

David loved football, so he’d understand this.

I always felt like Billy Bonds to his Bobby Moore.

Billy Bonds captained West Ham.

But Bobby Moore not only captained West Ham, he captained England and won the World Cup.

Bob Paisley said something that summed it up for me.

He was once asked what sort of youngsters he was looking for at Liverpool.

He said “The sort of youngster we’re looking for will try to nutmeg Kevin Keegan on the training ground, then stand aside for him in the corridor”.

That’s exactly how I felt about David.

He was world class.

I’d always stand aside for him in the corridor.

WRITER WITH A CAP W

My favourite David Abbott story is about the Economist campaign.

Actually, the Economist campaign we all remember was the third one Abbott Mead Vickers did.

The first was a TV ad featuring an animated head that opened up and things went into it.

Nice animation, nothing memorable.

The second campaign won lots of awards, but you have to remind people what it was.

It featured a man on a plane and Henry Kissinger sat next to him.

The VO said “What if Henry Kissinger sat next to you, would you know what to talk to him about?”

It won lots of advertising awards because no one could believe they got Henry Kissinger.

But people remembered it as ‘the Henry Kissinger ad’ not ‘the Economist ad’.

This worried David, he was an advertising purist not an awards junkie.

He had higher standards than the rest of us.

One evening after work, he was chatting to Ken New, AMV’s media director.

The Economist campaign was nagging away at David.

He had a pad on his lap and he was doodling a poster.

He said to Ken New “It’s a pity we have to do TV for The Economist.

It’s a pity we can’t do posters.

The proportions of a 48-sheet poster are exactly the same as the masthead on The Economist.

If we did posters we could use the exact same typeface with witty headlines, nothing else.

Just white type out of a red background.

We’d have massively powerful branding all over town and every poster would look exactly like the product.

Pity we can’t do posters.”

Ken New said “Of course we can do posters David, if you’ve got a great idea I can make the numbers work.”

Now at most agencies, they wouldn’t do the poster campaign because it wasn’t on brief, the brief was for TV.

But at the agency David Abbott built, the idea came first.

And the idea was always about selling the product in the most intelligent, effective way.

Not fitting the idea to the brief, not keeping the client happy, not winning awards.

Doing the best, most effective advertising.

And that discussion is where the Economist campaign hinged.

Ken New made the numbers fit and David wrote the posters.

And it became the greatest poster campaign for the next two decades.

The one everyone else is jealous of.

As soon as it started, Stevie Spring called me from her car phone.

She said “I’ve just seen a great poster, it said “If you’re an Economist reader ask your chauffeur to honk as you pass”.

And she laughed her head off over the phone.

Imagine people phoning each other to talk about your ads.

That’s the sort of response we’d all die for.

My wife is an art director, she worked for David at both his agencies: French Gold Abbott, and Abbott Mead Vickers.

I asked her what he was like to work for.

She said he wasn’t just a great writer, he was also a great art director, a great account man, and a great planner.

In fact he was a one-man agency.

The last time I saw David, he told me something I never knew.

As a junior, he was trained by both David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach.

I don’t know anyone else who can say that.

He was a giant trained by two giants.

No wonder it feels like the end of an era.

CHUTZPAH

Chutzpah is a Jewish word meaning audacity.
In 1980, Eli Beer was a seventeen-year-old boy living in Jerusalem.
He wanted to do something worthwhile, so he volunteered to be an Emergency Medical Technician working on ambulances.
But the traffic in Jerusalem is terrible, the ambulance always took a minimum of twenty minutes to get to an emergency.
Once, his ambulance was called to a little girl choking, by the time they got there she was dead.
A doctor said “I was a block away, I could have saved her”.
Eli Beer went to see his boss.
He said he and a dozen colleagues all lived in the same area.
If the dispatcher would let them know when there was an emergency in their area they could run there fast, and keep the patient alive until the ambulance arrived.
His boss said “Kid, go back to school or go open a falafel stand. We don’t need your wild ideas”.
What Eli Beer did next was an example of chutzpah.
He thought “The hell with you. If you won’t give me the addresses I’ll get them myself”.
And he bought two police-band radios.
Almost immediately he heard about a nearby car crash.
He ran to the scene and found an old man bleeding to death.
He stopped the bleeding and kept the man alive until the ambulance arrived, twenty minutes later.
And he thought, in two years that’s the first life I’ve saved.
At that point he quit ambulances and started Hatzalah United.
He would listen for emergencies and broadcast the details to whichever of his volunteers was nearest.
And they kept patients alive until the ambulances arrived.
Then Eli Beer decided they could save even more lives with a little bit more chutzpah.
All the ambulances were getting stuck in traffic.
But what if the ambulances could travel through the traffic, even on the pavement?
They needed motorbikes that were equipped like ambulances, with blood plasma and defibrillators.
With more chutzpah, Eli Beer began raising money to buy them.
Now they could get to any emergency inside three minutes.
They could keep people alive until the ambulance got there.
And they began saving more lives, and more lives.
And Eli Beer raised more money to buy more motorbikes.
Currently they have two hundred medically equipped motorbikes across Israel.
Every motorbike will save, on average, 120 lives a year.
Hatzalah United saves lives regardless of race, religion, or nationality.
In fact, when Eli Beer’s own father had a heart attack, his life was saved by one of Hatzalah United’s Moslem volunteers.
So successful is Hatzalah United, it’s being copied in Brazil, India, Mexico, even Australia.
And it’s saving lives in all those places.
None of which would have happened without a seventeen-year-old boy’s chutzpah.
The dictionary defines chutzpah as:
“The personal confidence that allows one to do things that may seem shocking to others.
Gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, insolence, audacity, temerity, presumption plus arrogance”.

We could also define chutzpah as creativity.

VEHICLE FOR GROWTH

When Henry Ford started making cars, few people had them.
Ford knew that cars were only bought by the rich.
So obviously his strategy would be market growth, not market share.
In 1908, the average car cost over $2,000.
So he launched the Model T costing just $800.
People who’d never even considered owning a car could now afford one.

Ford aimed to grow the market amongst non-owners.
The cheaper he made the cars, the more people could buy them.
It became a constant struggle to get costs down, and down.
By 1911, he realised production was one of the main costs.
If he could make the cars faster he could sell them cheaper.
But current assembly techniques were just too slow.
Ford needed to think creatively.
Think in a way other car manufacturers weren’t thinking.
So he looked outside factories and industry.
He looked at meat-packing plants.
In meat-packing plants the carcasses are loaded onto an endless belt.
The employees stand where they are while the carcasses come past.
One man takes out the innards, that’s all he does all day.
One man cuts off the limbs, that’s all he does.
One man separates the various cuts of meat, that’s all he does.
Nobody has to move, they do one simple job over-and-over.
Henry Ford thought, what if I did that in reverse?
Instead of using a conveyor belt to take something apart, I could use it to put a car together.
The Ford production line was born and the speed of making a car was halved.
Along with the cost, which Ford cut to to $360.
Model T sales rose to a quarter of a million.
Another huge cost in auto manufacturing was employee churn.
The work was dirty and badly paid.
In one year, Ford alone hired 53,000 different staff for 14,000 jobs.
This meant the constant cost of retraining, plus the lost production.
Again Ford needed to think creatively.
And in 1914, Henry Ford did the unthinkable.
He doubled his employees’ basic wage from $2.34 to $5 a day.
Every other manufacturer thought he was insane.
But none of Ford’s employees now wanted to leave.
He saved the cost and the time of constant retraining.
And, as Ford explained, he turned his 250,000 workers into customers.
They could all now afford to buy cars.
And the one car at a price they could all afford was the Model T.
By 1916, Ford sold half a million Model Ts.
By 1922, he cut the price to $269 and had half the entire market.
By 1927, when the Model T finally stopped production, he had sold fifteen million cars.
Henry Ford had turned America into a country of car owners.
He saturated the country, and the market, with automobiles.

He not only built the cars, he built the market.

 

 

 

DON’T TAKE IT SO SERIOUSLY

Adam Garone is from Melbourne.
In 2003, he was having a drink in a pub with his mates.
They were laughing about ridiculous 1970’s fashions: huge platform shoes, flared-trousers, flower-pattern shirts, long droopy moustaches.
But however ridiculous the fashion was, it always made a come back.
Except moustaches.
Sure, people grew beards, or goatees, or soul-patches.
But old-fashioned moustaches just looked too ridiculous.

Then, as things will over a few beers, this ended up as a challenge.
They challenged each other to grow moustaches.
When their other mates heard, they wanted to join in, too.
So Adam organised it amongst thirty of his friends.
He made rules, turned it into a race, and had prizes for the best and worst moustaches.
The main rule was, see what you could grow in a month.
The competition was such a success they decided to do it again.
This time they chose November.
And they collapsed the words ‘moustache’ and ‘November’ together.
And renamed it Movember.
But rather than waste it, Adam decided to do it for a charity.
Raise money by getting people to sponsor the moustache growers.
And because it was moustaches, it would have to be a male charity.
He found prostate cancer killed as many men as breast cancer killed women, it was a perfect fit.
Woman had lots of sponsored fun-events for breast cancer.
This would be the first sponsored fun-event for prostate cancer.
So he met with the prostate cancer charity and asked if Movember could partner with them.
They said no.
They said they wanted to be seen as a serious charity and such a silly stunt could make them look trivial.
That year Adam Garone got 450 men to grow moustaches and raised $54,000.
Which he donated to prostate cancer research.
The next year he got 9,000 men to grow moustaches and they raised $1.2 million.
Which he donated to the same charity.
The year after that, 56,000 men grew moustaches and raised $6.7 million.
By 2009, 450,000 men had grown moustaches and raised $77 million.
By 2011, men from 14 different countries had grown moustaches and raised $126 million.
Now, that very same prostate cancer charity that refused to partner with Movember were knocking on his door, ringing his phone, writing emails, desperate to be partners.
Movember became so huge that Adam Garone had to give up his day job to run it.
None of which would have happened if he’d listened to the people running the charity.
Because what they knew about was conventional wisdom.
But Adam Garone didn’t know about conventional wisdom.
He knew prostate cancer needed research, and research needs money.
And how you raise money is by lots of people joining in.
And people want to join in with things that are fun.
So, having a laugh wasn’t such a bad place to start after all.
By 2014, Movember had raised $300 million worldwide to fund research into prostate cancer.

That’s a lot more than the people who wanted to be taken seriously.

I HEART MEMES

Susan Blakemore wrote ‘The Meme Machine’.
She says a meme isn’t simply something that occurs on the Internet, like LOL-cats or hashtags.
In Wikipedia it’s defined as follows:
“A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through, writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.”
Put simply, a meme is something that catches on.
Susan Blackmore gives an example of a meme in everyday life.
She shows a photo of a toilet in a backpacker’s hostel in Malaysia.
The toilet is very basic of course, tatty, well worn, but clean.
We don’t notice anything unusual until she points out the toilet roll.
The corners of the first sheet have been folded over.
She shows various photos of the same thing, the first sheet of toilet paper with the corners folded.
In a hostel in Shanghai, in a toilet on a Japanese train, in an outdoor toilet in Thailand,
Why is it happening everywhere, what does it signify?
Well to most of us it signifies that we will be the first person to use that toilet since it was cleaned.
But when did that become a sign?
Personally, I first noticed it several years ago.
At home, we had a cockney cleaning lady called Carole.
Her sons paid for her to have a holiday in a nice New York hotel.
Carole noticed that every day after the cleaning staff had finished, they folded the corners on the first sheet on the toilet roll.
Carole had never seen that before.
But she liked it and remembered it.
She thought it looked professional even though it cost nothing.
When she came back, she began doing it to our toilet rolls.
It was Cariole’s way of signifying that she’d done her job: that room was now clean and ready to use.
I didn’t know it had caught on until I saw Susan Blackmore’s talk.
But that’s exactly how a meme works.
No one tells us what it means, but we see it and we get it.
We like it so we use it.
Then, other people do the same and it gets into the language.
Without ever being explained, or discussed, or taught.
Another meme would be the heart symbol.
We see it everywhere, especially on Valentine’s Day cards.
But in medieval times it was a heraldic device used on shields and banners.
At some point it became the universal symbol for love.
Then it was carved into trees.
And now, it even substitutes for the word itself: “I (heart) NY”.
The extended middle finger would be another meme.
It’s believed to be an ancient Italian gesture, indicating homosexuality.
Immigrants took it to New York with them.
It was adopted as a universal insult and spread across America.
And spread, via American films, across the world.
That’s what a meme is, a symbol that catches on and communicates.
That’s how semiotics works, that’s how language works.
That’s how all communication works.
If we want our work to catch on, we need to study memes.

Not assume it’s merely an Internet phenomenon.

BIG DATA v SMART DATA

A while back, a man went into a Target supermarket in Minneapolis.
He asked for the manager.
He said “I find this offensive. Your store has sent this leaflet, personally addressed to my teenage daughter.
Coupons for maternity clothing, nursery furniture, baby-clothes, baby milk, diapers.
My daughter is still in school, what are you trying to do, encourage her to get pregnant?”
It seemed like a mistake so the manager apologised.

A week later the manager still felt bad, so he called the man to apologise again.
This time the man was sheepish.
He said “Ah, there have been some things happening at home that I didn’t know about. My daughter actually was pregnant and she hadn’t told us”.
How did that happen?
How did Target’s mailing system know the daughter was pregnant before she even told her parents?
Like most stores, Target has an enormous amount of information on its customers’ purchases.
But none of that data is useful unless you know what to do with it.
So in 2002, Target hired a statistician called Andrew Pole.
Most customers’ shopping habits are well-formed and hard to change.
The only time they are vulnerable is during lifestyle changes.
Graduating college, moving house, changing jobs, marriage or divorce.
And the biggest lifestyle change of all is having a baby.
If a store can get pregnant customers to buy their baby goods, they’ll buy everything else there too, just for convenience.
But if they wait until the baby is born, it’s too late.
Because they’ll be bombarded with offers from all the other stores.
So Target needed to identify pregnancies before anyone else.
Andrew Pole spotted 25 purchasing changes during the various stages of pregnancy.
For instance: around the third month, women switch from scented soap to scent-free soap.
Around the 4th month, they begin buying calcium, magnesium, and zinc supplements.
Around the 8th month, they begin buying large packs of cotton balls and hand-sanitizers.
But this specific targeting created a problem.
Women began to feel uneasy about Target knowing so much about their private life.
They felt they were being spied on.
And this is where big-data needed creative marketing.
Andrew Pole disguised the contents of the leaflets they sent out.
They would still be full of baby-goods, but now there was a lawnmower next to the diapers, and a wineglass offer next to the baby clothes.
Lots of irrelevant offers amongst the baby-goods.
Now the women didn’t think they were being spied on.
Now they thought they’d spotted what they wanted in a leaflet full of lots of other money-off offers.
They weren’t interested in the other offers, but that didn’t matter.
They were just there to disguise the real offers.
Thanks to Pole’s statistical analysis, Target sales increased by 50%.
From $44 billion, when he was hired in 2002, to $67 billion by 2010.

We don’t need big data, we need smart data.

SHAKE THINGS UP

BBH won the Audi account, so John Hegarty went on a factory visit.
All car factories are pretty much the same.
Robots moving body panels around, partially assembled cars on production lines, men tightening screws with airline power tools.
A production line is a production line.

Looking for something different, John noticed an old poster on the wall, it featured the line VORSPRUNG DURCH TECHNIC.
John asked the guide what it meant in English.
The guide said it meant “Progress through technology”.
Something clicked in John’s head.
It wasn’t Audi’s marketing strategy, but somehow it just felt right.
Feelings are something we’re taught to beware of, they are random and subjective.
But John began to wonder what it was he liked about this line.
Why did it feel so right for Audi?
And he unpacked his intuition and inspected it.
Audi was German.
But nobody in the UK knew that.
If asked, everyone thought it was Scandinavian or Belgian.
John felt, rather than thought, this was a massive opportunity.
Audi was a German car but nobody knew it.
German cars had massive appeal for precision engineering, reliability, and quality.
Names like: Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Volkswagen, commanded a premium.
With a few German words he could immediately brand Audi as a German car.
And John decided to put that line on the end of all the ads.
Of course he met a lot of resistance internally, from the suits.
A strap line that no one could understand made no sense, and anyway it wasn’t on strategy.
But John insisted on presenting it to the client, John Mezzaros.
Who said he understood and liked it, but he would have to research it: company policy.
So the line was researched and of course it failed.
Not merely because no one understood it.
But at that time, thirty years ago, people still remembered the war.
They didn’t like the idea of German language appearing on advertising.
So the line failed in research.
But then John Mezzaros showed that he was a different sort of client.
He liked the fact that it failed in research.
More accurately, he liked the reason it failed in research.
He said that unless they did something dramatic, things would stay as they were.
He said they needed to “shake things up”.
He accepted John Hegarty’s reasoning that Audi needed to be seen as a German car.
This was surely the highest profile way to do that.
With a line that would command attention by being controversial.
A line that would create debate, create free media, and lodge Audi, once and for all, in everyone’s mind as German.
So because of the two Johns, Hegarty and Mezzaros, that became the end line on every Audi press ad and commercial.
Audi became known for all the qualities associated with German cars.
Value perception went up, prices went up, sales went up.
And Audi is still BBH’s first and most successful client.

Great clients get great advertising.

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