What happens when you mix Nurofen, Benylin and Sudafed ?
Well, the man-cold became man-flu. Forget bird flu or swine flu, what I had could knock an elephant off its feet.
Maybe it was tiger flu.
I had to cancel some lovely fee-paying gigs and duck out of an MTV party. Doing that in the same week I had to pay my taxes and take a faulty computer back to PC-world made me as cheerful as a client who’s spent two million quid and got Turkey of the Week.
Or somebody who’s just been described by Richard Keys as having Jamie Redknapp “hanging out the back” of them.
What could be worse than that ?
Harry Redknapp, I suppose.
But enough of that. What cheered me up was thinking back to a phone call with Adam Morgan the week before.
He was telling me about some new terminology he’s got for various types of commercial messages. Including the delightful-sounding “tools”, “burps”, and “jolts”.
I think for a lot of us, the world of advertising can summed up using the very similar terminology of “tools”, “berks”, and “dolts”.
But Adam’s theory also involves the terms “worlds”, “rides” and “gum”. And I can’t think of any amusing assonances for them.
It all made brilliant sense, but I won’t give it all away now, because Adam has probably got another best-selling book brewing.
However, I do want to look at one thing he said which I thought was extremely provocative.
A few years ago, he read that Google was Britain’s best-loved brand and so he decided to talk to them about marketing.
However, the answer came back: “we’re kind of allergic to marketing”.
Adam described this as an epiphany moment for him. A time when he realised that the world’s plates had realigned.
To a lesser man it might have seemed like “hang on a minute, has my entire career been a waste of space”, but Adam is made of sterner stuff. He post-rationalised it into a theory – about how challenger brands have always used non-conventional marketing.
He’s not one of the top 3 planners in the world for nothing.
Again, the theory will be available in a bookstore near you (or from me, for the price of a soya latte).
But what I loved was this idea of an epiphany. A time when you suddenly realise that you have to change direction.
And then he asked me – what was your epiphany moment ?
In this particular context, my epiphany moment was interviewing the founder of Mumsnet and realising that you really, really didn’t need paid-for media any more.
That you could have tons of fun co-creating brands with the very people you wanted to buy your brand.
But I’d like to throw in an earlier epiphany I’ve had which relates to all this.
(Honestly, some days it’s one epiphany after another with me).
It was a conversation with Adam Lury in the first year of HHCL when he told me: “Don’t think ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Fix it regardless – it’s going to get broken soon anyway.”
It was his way of saying – keep embracing change, for its own sake, all the time.
The brilliant Oliver Burkeman was writing about this topic in Saturday’s Guardian.
He referred to the latest jargon in business coaching – the hideous-sounding ‘vuja de’. What that means is – keep seeing things with new eyes, as if you’ve never seen them before.
I reckon that’s a great thing to aspire to.
As Oliver says, it’s really difficult to do this because habit deadens us – for instance, airport security staff get so used to seeing bags without guns in them that quite often they literally can’t see a gun when it is there.
Something which is quite shocking to the average psychologist and pretty terrifying to the average airline passenger.
But as he says, “in the absence of an external “randomness intervention”, our pattern-seeking brains send us off on old paths”.
I love that.
It’s a funny old set of words, but it holds some deep truths about our industry.
It helps to explain the (very rare) examples of advertising working brilliantly (i.e., when it works as a randomness intervention) and the (all too common) ways in which work is chosen, using familiar, pattern-seeking old paths.