A couple of years back I went to the Tower of London one Friday evening. It was after it had shut and all the crowds had gone. It was twilight and very atmospheric.
Walking through the Tower of London at night, with no crowds, is walking through history. You can hear your footsteps echoing off the outer walls the Romans built. You can smell the stone as you walk through the gateway the Normans built. You walk past the tower where Richard III buried the little Princes, and wonder if their bones are still there. You walk where Raleigh must have walked while waiting to die.
For so many people, once they entered under the portcullis they never left. You can feel the sense of dread everywhere.
I was with a small group of people who were there for a ceremony to mark the new monument placed where the chopping block used to stand. This was the chopping block that was used to behead the nobility (commoners were beheaded publicly, nearby on Tower Hill).
As the last of the sun died we stood on the spot where, among others, two Queens and a Saint had been beheaded. The service itself was conducted in the chapel nearby, built by Henry VIII.
Under the ground where we would be standing were the bones of those beheaded (as traitors they weren’t allowed a proper burial or tomb).
The music we were to listen to was songs composed by them, the night before their death. And while we were soaking in all this history and atmosphere, the Beefeater who was leading our little party round spoke to us.
He said, “Are you all watching ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?’ on the telly?”
None of us had a clue what he was talking about.
He continued, “I hope you’re all going to vote for that Naomi, she’s streets ahead of the rest: beautiful girl, lovely voice. That’s who me and my wife are voting for.”
We couldn’t understand why he would interrupt this moment with such trivia. But to him, it was the other way round.
You see everything we were fascinated with was old news to him. He walked around this every day, this was just work. So he wanted to talk about something more interesting.
Like a TV reality show he was looking forward to watching. Because he was bored he automatically assumed we were bored too. What was going on with him must be what was going on with everybody.
That’s the attitude which summarises advertising at present. It’s bored with the process of selling. It’s bored with the products it has to sell. So we assume consumers must be bored too.
So let’s change the subject to something we’re not bored with. Let’s make a big budget extravaganza, or huge stunts instead. Or let’s do something so whacky and zany no one will even understand it. We’re bored with advertising, let’s make entertainment instead.
Look at Gorilla. Gorilla wasn’t about selling, it was just about doing something strange and fun and whacky that made no sense. And that was fantastically successful.
So that must be the brief for everything from now on. The brief must be to avoid looking like we’re selling anything. The brief must be to do something strange and fun and whacky that makes no sense. It could be the new Gorilla luv. Could it?
Or is it just a Beefeater who’s bored with his job, so he’s looking for something more interesting?