Posts Categorized: Misc


Since Tony Blair, PR seems to be the main requirement for a Prime Minister.
Presumably this is how David Cameron got the job.
Before he was our Prime Minister, Cameron apparently worked in PR.
I find this quite worrying.
Because if PR, and consequently marketing, are the main requirements for the job, he obviously doesn’t know the basics.
Last week he went to China, because the UK needs to sell more goods abroad.
And China is a huge untapped market.
So Cameron went to China to try to open it up to UK industry.
So far, so good.
But what he did was to lecture the Chinese on how they need to open up their markets to goods from the West.
He gave them a lecture about how the global financial system depends on balance.
How they can‘t keep just selling to the West without buying Western goods in return.
Now it’s not smart to lecture the Chinese.
In fact it’s not smart to lecture anyone you want something from.
But particularly not the Chinese.
The concept of ‘face’ is very important to them.
They don’t respond well to lectures from people who behave as if they are their betters.
Particularly not when they come from a country less than a tenth their size.
So in judging his audience, we have to be disappointed in Cameron’s PR skills.
Okay, so how about his basic marketing knowledge?
Supposing he did persuade the Chinese to open up their market to the rest of the world.
What proportion of world trade do we suppose the UK accounts for?
Let’s be generous and call it 5%.
So, if Cameron’s speech works, we will only get 5% benefit.
In other words, for every 20 items Cameron persuades China to import, 19 of them won’t come from the UK.
Nice job, Cameron.
And that’s our PM.
That’s the bloke we paid to go to China, with a massive delegation, to create sales for UK industry.
He’s doing 95% of the job for someone else.
Our competitors in fact.
See, that’s what I meant by saying he doesn’t understand the basics of marketing.
He doesn’t understand something a simple as Market Growth v Market Share.
Consequently, Cameron’s speech was totally about Market Growth.
Market Growth is a great strategy for the USA.
Who will probably get at least 35% share of any growth in Chinese imports.
But it isn’t smart for the smaller players, like us.
We need to be increasing the size of our share.
So Cameron should have been trying to grow the UK’s share of Chinese imports.
But instead, Cameron sold Western goods, Western industry, Western services.
Not UK you notice.
Of which we have, if we’re lucky, 5%.
Of which we don’t have 95%.
So 95% of what we just paid Cameron to sell wasn’t the UK.
Would you employ someone like that?
That’s what I meant when I said he doesn’t understand the basics of marketing.
Meanwhile, France has just done the largest trade deal in its history with China.
Not by lecturing China about world economics.
Not by requiring China to open up to Western goods.
Just simply by selling French goods.
As opposed to anyone else’s.
By telling the Chinese why they should buy French goods instead of other Western goods.

The French at least know the difference between Market Growth and Market Share.



I’m reading Patrick O’Brian’s historical novels at present.
This is a series of twenty books based on the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars.
They’ve sold around three million copies so far.
The Times describes them as “The greatest historical novels of all time.”
They are compared variously to Proust, Tolkien, and Dickens.
But for me, they’re more like the Discovery or History Channel.
Full of facts and information, but written in very elegant language.
Sort of Jane Austen for blokes.
So I really like these books.
I read them on the tube every day, and sometimes I miss my stop.
When I really like a book I tend to miss what’s around me.
I once took ‘Damned United’ to Berlin with me, and missed Berlin.
Earlier this year I took Cormac McCarthy’s ‘All The Pretty Horses’ to Hawaii, and missed Hawaii.
So, obviously, I think Patrick O’Brian’s books are terrific.
But there’s something else I like about them that’s cleverer than any other book I’ve read.
And it’s nothing to do with the writing.
Here’s the really clever thing.
They’ve got Chapter One of the next book printed at the end of each book.
So, just as you’ve finished the story, you think you’d like to know what happens next.
You think you’ll just read that extra chapter, as a sort of epilogue.
But before you know it, you’re into the story of the next book.
You’re hooked again.
You have to buy the next book.
If you’ve ever worked on newspapers, this is what they call ‘pull-through’.
When we worked on the Independent it was critical.
Some newspapers have a largely ‘captive’ readership.
The Telegraph, The Mail, The Guardian.
In the case of the Telegraph and Mail, lots of the sales are home delivery.People have it on order from the newsagents, so they automatically get the paper 5 days a week.
In the case of the Guardian it’s a matter of political persuasion.
If you work for the state, and apparently one in four of us do, you’ll get the paper that supports that agenda.
But The Independent suffered because its readers were just that.
The Indy had the highest incidence of occasional readers.
They were younger, upmarket, city dwellers.
They tended not to live according to routine.
They didn’t get their papers delivered at home by the newsagent.
They wouldn’t usually decide what to read until just before they got on the tube every morning.
This meant they’d often get distracted and forget to buy it.
Or they’d take a book or a magazine instead, or listen to their iPod.
So the Indy readers might only buy one copy a week.
In that case the issue isn’t about attracting new readers.
The issue is about getting the readers you’ve got to buy it more often.
If they could get half of their readers to buy it two or three times a week, sales would go up 50%.
So the brief becomes about pull-through.
Everyone automatically assumes advertising is always about trial.
But that isn’t necessarily true.
In newspapers, it’s no good getting someone to buy the paper once.
You’ve only sold one copy.
Newspapers are all about repeat purchase.
Newspapers have to be about building up a purchasing habit.
A trialist buys one copy, finish.
A loyalist buys 5 copies a week.
That’s what’s really clever about Patrick O’Brian’s books.
They don’t do the conventional thing.
They don’t let me finish the story, and risk me moving on to whatever else is convenient.
A newspaper, a magazine, or worse – another book.
They give away the first chapter of the next book free, with this one.
But, of course, they’re not really giving anything away.
They’re getting me to swallow the hook.

Because they don’t see it as a freebie.
They see me as a captive retail opportunity.

Read more on PULL-THROUGH versus TRIAL…


The nearest advertising gets to the real world is the guys in the studio.
Take Chris Walsh, who used to run our studio.
One time, Chris told me his wife wasn’t speaking to him.
I asked him what happened.
He said “It started on Christmas eve.
I was having a pint in the pub when I realised I’d forgotten to buy her a present.
All the shops were shut and the only place open was the petrol station.
I went in and all they had left was a big box of Quality Street.
So I bought that.
Then I went back to the pub, and the barmaid asked me what I had in the bag.
I said it was the wife’s Christmas present.
She said the least I could do was wrap it up.
She had some wrapping paper left over, so she wrapped it behind the bar for me.
Anyway, next morning the wife opened it and she wasn’t pleased.
She said “A box of Quality Street, is that all I get? And you didn’t even wrap it properly.”
So I said “Don’t blame me. That was all that was left in the petrol station, and the barmaid wrapped it.”
And she hasn’t spoken to me since.
So I thought I’d better do something to make up for it.
I thought I’d cook a nice romantic dinner.
So I put some chips in the pan on the stove.
Then while I was waiting, I thought I’d better open a bottle of wine.
But I couldn’t find the corkscrew.
So I went into the shed to look for something to get the cork out of the bottle.
But while I was in there the chip pan caught light.
And when I got back the whole kitchen was on fire.
So I called the fire brigade, but by the time they turned up it had all burned down.
So she’s still not speaking to me.”
See, the real world doesn’t all happen in The Ivy.
In 1972, Richard Nixon won the US Presidency by a landslide.
The New Yorker film critic, Pauline Kael, said “I don’t understand how Nixon won. No one I know voted for him”
Well, no one at The New Yorker anyway.
I was recently reading a blog by a new-media guru.
He was complaining about the unfairness of a worldwide brand rating he’d just seen.
The rating placed Coca Cola at number one, obviously.
But it placed IBM at number two.
And worse, it placed Mac at number seventeen.
The new-media guru was horrified.
He wrote something like “This is plainly rubbish. I haven’t sat in a single meeting where IBM has been discussed, but I’ve sat in lots of meetings where Mac has been discussed.”
As a new media guru this comment is hardly surprising.
But I think what that survey really proves is that new-media gurus aren’t representative of the population worldwide.
These are examples of what Alan Wolk calls ‘Nascar Blindness’.
In the States, all the fashionable media people live and work in New York.
And the only sports they all watch are baseball, basketball, and American football.
So, according to them, they must be the only sports anyone watches.
Except they’re not.
The biggest sport in America is Nascar racing.
Big, fat, tanked-up cars racing each other round the track.
Watched by hundreds of thousands of big, fat, tanked-up fans.
Many, many more than any of the other sports.
But, because no one in New York watches Nascar racing, they don’t even know it exists.
They’ve got Nascar blindness.
That’s kind of how we are in advertising.
We tend to think everyone in the UK owns an iPhone, reads The Guardian, and is fascinated about what goes on at The Ivy.
Which may be why advertising is so out of touch with the real world.

Or, as Eric Morecombe said “Life isn’t Hollywood. It’s Cricklewood.”



When I was at art school in New York, all cars were American.
And all American cars were made in Detroit.
There were no foreign cars on the streets.
Maybe once a year you might see an English sports car: Jaguar, Sprite, MG.
But these were so rare people would stop and point.
The very term ‘car’ meant an American car.
Not some tinny piece of foreign crap.
A real car.
And the only place making real cars was Detroit.
And because they were the only place making cars, they never changed the basic concept.
Just changed the styling a little bit every year.
Fast forward to the UK, earlier this year.
I was watching a TV programme about Detroit.
It now looks like the devastated city of Hue that Kubrick recreated for Full Metal Jacket.
Nothing but the deserted remains of massive, empty, burnt-out buildings.
The gutted concrete carcasses of giant assembly plants.
The insides dead and echoing, water dripping through decaying, broken roofs.
Everything valuable stripped out.
The floors cluttered with rubble and debris.
This is the set for a horror movie about the collapse of a civilisation.
The only signs of life are small bonfires here and there, with the jobless and homeless sitting round them.
What happened?
How do you go from the only-game-in-town to extinct, in a few decades?
Well in retrospect, like anything, it’s obvious.
I was there when it started.
But none of us knew it at the time.
You can only see these things afterwards.
That was the tiny crack in the wall.
The only foreign car anyone bought was the VW Bug.
But that wasn’t a threat, because it wasn’t really a car at all.
It was just a joke, ‘a pregnant roller skate’.
A cheap piece of junk for students.
Students didn’t need a status symbol.
They just needed transport: A–Z.
So students drove them around, and that became the VW brand.
The car of the counter-culture movement.
My ex father-in-law was an art director on Madison Avenue.
He was like all the Mad Men: shiny suits, thin ties, aspired to owning a Cadillac.
But the culture was changing.
Suddenly all that stuff was for the fat cats.
And he didn’t want to be seen as a fat cat.
So he grew his hair long, switched to jeans, and bought a VW Bug.
That’s when Detroit began dying.
Right then, when the middle class began switching.
But of course Detroit didn’t even notice.
They carried on doing what they’d always done.
Same-old floor pan, same big engine in front, same-old rear-wheel drive.
Keep the same basic solution, just change the bodywork every year.
Bigger fins, more chrome, bigger headlights, new-shaped tail-lights.
Just restyle it a little bit every year.
So the styling, the execution, got better and better.
But they never thought about the basic concept.
And that’s how Detroit died.
Maybe there’s a lesson there for us.
Maybe we’re behaving like Detroit.
We’re concentrating on the execution of what we do, the styling.
And right now, the execution is better than it’s ever been.
We make commercials costing literally millions of pounds.
With computer graphics, we can do anything we want.
We can make ads with impossible sets and a cast of millions.
And, because execution is everything, if we can’t be bigger we must be newer.
So the constant search is for new styles of execution.
Techniques that no one has used yet.
It doesn’t even matter what it’s for, as long as we’re the first or the biggest.
Because execution has taken over from idea.
In fact the execution is the idea.
Styling has taken over from thinking.
Just like Detroit, everything has to be ‘newer and bigger’.
And, just like Detroit, everyone’s a little dissatisfied with the result.
Maybe, like Detroit, we’re at the beginning of a change.
Maybe, like Detroit, the change will happen gradually at first.

And maybe, like Detroit, by the time we notice it will be too late.

Read more on OZYMANDIUS…


I went to a NABS talk the other evening.
Helen Calcraft and Martin Jones were speaking about new business.
Pitching to be specific.
What was interesting was the difference between the male and female presentation.
Martin talked first.
He’d been the head of the AAR, the people that handle around 50% of all new business pitches.
So Martin knows what he’s talking about.
He put up lots of useful facts and pointers, lots of tips.
He’d seen just about every agency pitching over the years.
He analysed what worked, and why, what to do, and what not.
Each chart had an interesting line of useful of information.
All the men in the audience were nodding along, taking it in.
Then Helen Calcraft spoke.
And as she talked you felt the room shift.
All the women came to life.
Helen is the founder of MCBD.
She’s also the most successful new business person in London.
Helen’s presentation was much less about the facts and much more about the emotions.
Helen went through the experience of pitching in a way that brought it to life.
First she described the whole process like this.
“Each client is like a superstar.
Immediately they announce their business is up for pitch, every agency in town will be all over them like paparazzi.
But clients don’t know, or care, anything about advertising agencies.
So what we have to do is the equivalent of getting Johnny Depp to pick us out of a crowd of adoring fans, ask us for a date, and then in four week’s time ask us to marry him.”
Immediately she moved it away from the simple mechanical world of solutions that all the men understood, into the world of seduction and relationships that women understood.
Of course everyone was riveted.
To show what clients thought of ad agencies she put up a slide of Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies.
She said “Clients see us just like this. We may think we’re fabulous, but to them we all look identical.”
Then she said one of the most important parts was deciding how committed we were before the process started.
Did you really, really want the account?
And she put up a picture of Tom Cruise.
She said, “You may initially find someone attractive, but do you really want to get into a long term relationship with someone who jumps up and down on Oprah’s sofa?”
Then she talked about the various stages of the process.
She said the chemistry meeting was like the first date.
She put up a picture of a pouting Jordan and said, “Don’t be needy. Don’t keep talking about yourself: how famous you are and what you’ve done. How boring is that on a first date? Talk about them, find out what they want.”
Then she talked about the tissue meeting.
She said the tissue meeting is like the first weekend away.
And she put up a photo of a woman shaving her legs and a man sitting on the toilet.
She said, “On the first weekend away together, don’t leave the toilet door open, don’t shave your legs. You don’t need to let them know all the less attractive parts about you. That’s too much information.”
And Helen went through the whole pitch process like that.
Not just for the rational side of the brain, but to let her audience know how it feels.
But I’m a bloke, and I’m a creative.
So the two tips that resonated with me were the ones where the headline played off the visual, like a really good ad.
She had a picture of Camilla Parker Bowles and the headline “Never Underestimate The Competition.”
Like a really good ad, it takes you a minute to get it.
So that, when you do, it sinks in.
She gave the example of MCBD being beaten by a big, dull, old agency that they hadn’t taken seriously as a rival.
Then she showed a picture of Anne Widdecombe with the headline “Being Right Isn’t The Same As Being Irresistible”.
This really resonated with me.
All creatives think if we get the ‘right’ answer, as far as the consumer’s concerned, the client must buy our solution.
But in a pitch the consumer isn’t the target market.
In a pitch the client is the target market.
So the right answer may not be the ‘right’ answer.
What Martin did was take us through the pitch process in a way we could understand.
What Helen did was take everyone though the process in a way everyone could empathise with.
And that’s why she’s the most successful new business person in London.
Because she knows feelings are more important than facts.
As she and Martin both said:
If a client like a particular agency, they’ll make the facts fit that feeling.
If a client doesn’t like a particular agency, they’ll make the facts fit that feeling.

Or, as the philosopher David Hume said, “Reason is the slave of the passions.”

Read more on LIFE’S A PITCH…

ZenithOptimedia to split in half in dramatic restructure

ZenithOptimedia, for many the original home of the modern media agency, is believed to be heading for a dramatic split following a restructure at group level that also leaves Zed’s future in doubt.

Groupe created ZenithOptimedia in 2003 through a controversial merger of the
media planning departments of Zenith Media and Optimedia networks.

According to sources, Stephen Farquhar is set to become managing director of
Zenith and Mark Howley will become managing director of Optimedia.

Both are expected to continue to report to ZenithOptimedia’s current chief executive, Gerry Boyle.

Read more on ZenithOptimedia to split in half in dramatic restructure…


My Uncle Fred was a heavy smoker all his life.
All my family were.
Just like everyone else in those days.
As soon as you were old enough to smoke you lit up.
Over the years Uncle Fred’s lungs got worse and worse.
Eventually he had to have an oxygen cylinder at home.
When Uncle Fred started coughing, he coughed so long and hard he couldn’t get his breath.
Eventually, as he sat there gasping for air, he’d pull the oxygen mask over his mouth.
He’d gasp and wheeze it in until eventually he got his breath back.
Then he’d turn off the oxygen cylinder.
And he’d light up a cigarette.
I once said to my dad “Don’t you think Uncle Fred should stop smoking?”
Dad said, “No, it’s the only thing that helps him. He has a fag and it makes him cough all that phlegm off his chest.”
Nowadays we wouldn’t consider that good advice.
Because we see smoking as the cause of the problem.
But they saw it as the cure for the problem.
Tense and nervous, have a cigarette.
Bored and depressed, have a cigarette.
Sore throat, have a cigarette.
Coughs and sneezes, have a cigarette.
They thought the act of smoking was soothing and therapeutic.
Nowadays we know, far from curing it, nicotine can cause or exacerbate tension and depression.
Nowadays we know, far from curing it, tobacco can cause respiratory problems like emphysema and cancer.
What they didn’t see was that the cure was actually the problem.
Luckily we’re more intelligent than that nowadays.
We’d never do anything like that would we?
We’d never confuse the cure with the problem.
Or would we?
Take advertising.
We all know people don’t enjoy advertising as much as they used to.
So the answer’s obvious, isn’t it?
We need more people analysing the advertising.
We know advertising isn’t as funny or entertaining as it used to be.
So the answer’s obvious, we need more focus groups checking and rechecking it.
We know advertising doesn’t get picked up and repeated by the public anymore.
So the answer’s obvious, we need more people refining the messaging and debating every dot and comma.
We know advertising strap lines don’t get sung by school kids, repeated on TV shows, used in newspaper headlines anymore.
So the answer’s obvious, we need more people making sure nobody in advertising is taking any risks.
We know people are getting irritated by constant intrusive messaging.
So the answer’s obvious, find more places to run the messages: online, interactive, new media.
We know people don’t enjoy interacting with advertising as much as they used to.
So the answer’s obvious, get the advertising to them in more interactive channels: social media, Facebook, twitter.

Do you suppose it’s just possible that we may be confusing the cause of the problem with the cure?


Bernbach on how life works

Bill Bernbach said “In this very real world, good doesn’t drive out evil. Evil doesn’t drive out good. But the energetic does displace the passive.”
Although he was referring to advertising, it’s analogous to all life.
We all learned in science class, “Nature abhors a vacuum.”
Imagine an empty space, and nearby a very full space.
It’s pretty obvious that whatever’s in the full space will be attracted to the empty space.
So some of it will move across until there’s the same amount of stuff in both places.
Things will be attracted (sucked) from the area of higher density to the area of lower density.
At the level of molecules, this is called The Venturi Effect.
And it affects every single part of our lives.
Something as basic as drinking through a straw.
By sucking air out of the straw we create a low pressure in the straw.
This attracts liquid from the higher pressure part at the bottom of the straw.
And liquid flows up through it.
A car engine starts when it sucks air in, across the top of the carburettor nozzle.
When air is moving, the molecules are farther apart so their density is lower.
The petrol molecules at the bottom of the nozzle aren’t moving.
So their density is higher.
They get sucked up into the engine, and it starts.
When David Beckham wants a ball to curve he kicks it on the opposite side.
This makes it spin as it flies.
The side of the ball spinning forwards will force the molecules to be more crowded.
The side of the ball spinning backwards will allow them to spread out.
So the ball will be sucked towards the less dense molecules.
A golf ball has dimples to accentuate this effect.
When a golfer wants the ball to have lift, he strikes it so that the bottom spins forwards.
The denser air underneath the ball creates high pressure.
The less dense air on top creates low pressure.
The ball is sucked upwards.
A plane uses a similar effect.
If we cut the wing in half, we’d see it was curved upwards on top, but flat on the bottom.
So, as the plane moves forward, the molecules on top of the wing have to cover a greater distance, and are consequently more spread out.
The molecules underneath the wing are denser.
High pressure is sucked towards low pressure, and the plane flies.
A yacht is the same.
The sail is curved so that the air has to move faster over the outer part.
But the air gathers in the bulge of the inner part.
So the denser air is sucked towards the less dense space.
And the boat is pulled forwards.
Which is how a yacht can sail into the wind.
So moving things (energy) can have a profound effect on static things (passive).
Thus proving Bernbach’s maxim.
But there’s a second part to Bernbach’s maxim: “In this all too real world, good doesn’t drive out evil.”
In other words, having right on your side isn’t enough.
In fact it’s irrelevant.
Whatever we want to happen, we have to make it happen.
In order to make it happen, we have to understand how things work.
How things work is energy.
The universe is simply energy.
“In this very real world, good doesn’t drive out evil. Evil doesn’t drive out good. But the energetic does displace the passive.”
That’s how life works.
That’s how advertising works.
Or to put it another way, existentialism.
This is the Albert Camus version of Bill Bernbach’s quote.
“The weak man believes in luck. The strong man believes in cause and effect.”

Read more on Bernbach on how life works…


Nicole Yershon sent me a link to a website called ‘Old Jews Telling Jokes’.
One of my favourites is about two Jews walking down the street.
They pass a Church.
On the notice board outside is a sign saying “£10 for anyone who converts to Christianity”.
One of them stops.
He says, “£10, that’s not a bad deal.”
The second one says, “You’re going to convert to Christianity?”
The first one says, “Who has to convert? You go in, you drink the wine, you eat the biscuit, you get £10.”
The second one says, “You can do it if you want. I’ll wait here.”
So the first one goes in to the Church.
After a half hour he comes out.
The Second one says to him “Well, did you get the money?”
The first one looks down his nose at him and says “Is that all you people ever think about?”
That’s kind of how I feel about people in advertising.
Before they get into advertising they’re normal people.
They watch stuff on TV.
They go on the internet.
They read newspapers.
They walk round a supermarket, take things off shelves and buy them.
Then they get into advertising.
Now they’re not ordinary people anymore.
Now they’re ‘experts’.
Now they study ordinary people in a detached manner.
As if they are an alien race.
A race no one can possibly understand without being trained.
A race that needs to be observed with sophisticated technology.
I went to a Rory Sutherland talk in the week.
He talked about ‘clock thinking’ and ‘cloud thinking’.
Karl Popper coined those terms for this dichotomy
Cloud-thinking is what ordinary people do.
Clouds are big, amorphous, constantly changing, and unpredictable.
A cloud has mass, but it comes and goes.
It has shape, but it changes.
We know it’s there, but we can’t measure its dimensions exactly.
Cloud-thinking is intuitive.
But of course you can’t pin it down like that.
And ‘experts’ need to be able to pin things down.
So clock-thinking is what ‘experts’ do.
A clock is regular, predictable, repetitious, pedestrian.
Exactly the same every time, tick tock.
No variation.
Obviously, people who are trying to analyse things prefer clock thinking.
It seems dependable and trustworthy.
One problem.
You can’t use clock thinking to tell us how to make a cloud.
We’ll end up with a clock.
If we want a cloud, we have to use cloud thinking.
But clock-thinkers aren’t comfortable with that.
It’s unpredictable, uncontrollable.
So they’d rather cling on to the security of clock thinking.
Which is why 90% of advertising doesn’t work.
Because how we reacted to advertising before we got into it, was cloud thinking.
We simply ignored most of it.
We didn’t analyse advertising using clock-thinking.
See, clock thinking looks at every tiny detail under a microscope.
Takes it apart, examines it, reassembles it.
And that works for other people in advertising.
Our audience doesn’t work in advertising.
And cloud thinking doesn’t do details.
Cloud thinking does big picture.
Cloud thinking ignores everything that doesn’t force itself onto our radar.
If we’re going to be successful we need to rediscover cloud thinking.
We need to reach back into our memories and see if we can still remember what we thought about it when we were ordinary human beings.

Before we became members of a superior alien intelligence



John Locke said we were born ‘table rasa’.
In other words a blank sheet of paper.
We know absolutely nothing, we have to learn everything from the beginning.
But we can’t learn everything.
So we learn what applies to us.
Then we think that is everything.
I thought the advertising debate about product versus brand was about a decade old.
But I’ve just seen a piece of film from the 1950s that proves it’s about 60 years old.
Apparently Rosser Reeves, who ran Ted Bates, was the father of the USP.
The unique selling proposition.
You find, or manufacture, something different about your product.
A reason consumers should buy it rather than your competitor’s product.
Then make that the basis of all your advertising.
So far so good.
That makes perfect sense.
Demonstrate a reason to purchase and build a brand around that.
The problem was, this being the fifties, the advertising was pretty dire.
Just repeat the USP again and again.
Until it becomes like a bad Eurovision song you can’t get out of your head.
So the thinking was good.
But the execution was bad.
The other side of the coin was Norman B. Norman, who ran NCK.
He was the father of ‘emotional’ advertising.
Never mind what the product actually did.
Find out what the consumer wanted, and sell it back to them.
This was the start of Planning (or ‘motivational research’ as it was called then) looking for ‘insights’.
On the film, Norman B. Norman gave 3 examples.
Ajax Laundry Detergent claimed to wash whiter than other detergents.
The problem was everyone was saying the same thing.
So, rather than find a better way of saying it, Norman B. Norman looked for a consumer insight.
He said, “Of course the housewife wants a whiter wash. But what she really wants is no laundry at all. She’d like someone to make the problem disappear.”
This lead to an advertising campaign for Ajax where a white knight galloped along the road on a charger.
He tapped the dirty washing with his lance and magically transformed it into piles of clean, pressed laundry.
His contention was that women would associate their fantasy with Ajax, and buy the brand.
Another example he gave was for Handi-Wrap cling film.
The product benefit was, it kept food fresh, conveniently.
But Norman B. Norman found this dull and unmotivating.
The consumer insight he found was “What’s a woman really wants is her husband’s approval. She doesn’t want him to open his lunch at work and find it dry as a bone. She doesn’t want him to be disappointed in her.”
So the brief became ‘a husband’s approbation’.
And the execution became a Dracula-like character called ‘The Spoiler’.
He shrivelled-up the husband’s food unless it was wrapped in Handi-Wrap.
The third example he gave was for Ajax Floor Cleaner.
This was apparently the most powerful modern cleaning powder.
But Norman B. Norman decided that was too dull.
So he looked for a consumer insight.
And again found that women would really rather not clean floors at all.
They secretly wished they could get it all get done as if by magic.
So the advertising vehicle became a wizard who tangoed through the kitchen with the housewife.
Everywhere they danced the kitchen was magically sparkling bright.
I remember when advertising was done by people like Norman B, Norman.
And I disagree with pretty much everything he stands for.
For a start, I don’t think women are that stupid.
I think promising the impossible is patronising and demeaning.
Secondly, I think he’s taking research and misinterpreting it.
It’s like cutting the back legs off a grasshopper.
Then shouting at it and noticing it doesn’t jump.
And taking this to prove that grasshoppers hear through their legs.
Because cutting them off makes them go deaf.
That’s how not to use research.
But just because one agency does it badly, that shouldn’t invalidate an entire discipline.
Norman B. Norman is the ‘brand’ route done badly.
Rosser Reeves is the ‘product’ route done badly.
But what’s really wrong is thinking there’s one magic formula in all cases.
There isn’t now.
There never was.
We still have to think.
We can’t just kneejerk into a quick fix.
Because the deeper truth is, the answer will always be in one of two places.
Either in the product.
Or in the consumer.
And we have to be prepared to use our brains to see which solution is right.
Then, most importantly, we have to brilliantly bring it to life.

Which neither Rosser Reeves nor Norman B. Norman had the brains to see.