The secret of advertising
While he was still alive, my dear old Dad was regularly convinced that he had discovered “the secret of golf”.
Although after he died, his interest somewhat tailed off.
He died many years ago, I should explain. But he’d been a single figure handicap player, and he was obsessed with minute adjustments to his grip or stance or swing.
I wasn’t the least bit interested in the game, so his observations meant nothing to me. For all I know he may have hit upon the actual secret just before he died, but if that’s the case, nobody will ever know.
And golfers around the world will just carry on hacking, cursing and stomping their way through some of the loveliest landscapes in the world.
In a similar way I find myself obsessed with finding the “secret of advertising”, a process that I am convinced can guarantee outstanding creative work while also producing disproportionate results in the real world.
(Picking up the average creative award has less to do with this ambition than ordering a wet raspberry latte in a shoe shop.)
In the last week I’ve had lots of meetings about Decoded, tea with my old HHCL partner Rupert Howell, given a talk to 100 people with CMW, had coffee with an anthropology student who wants to break into advertising, got into a very interesting debate with Tim Lindsay, had lunch with Glyn Britton of Albion, had a drink with Alex Wipperfurth who runs a lovely agency in SFC, had coffee with Zoe Osmond of Nabs and lunch with Zoe Bell of Grace Blue, helped an agency who wanted to get onto the Adidas shortlist, had tea with Rufus Olins, had lunch with a documentary film-maker and oh I don’t know a few other things as well.
And I think I’ve finally cracked it.
The answer came in a process described by Glyn Britton, as we ate pie and mash in a converted shipping crate. (You’ve got to be down with the kids in Shoreditch and that’s where everybody is eating these days. Restaurants per se are rather last decade in Silicon T-junction.)
The actual process is described fully in Glyn’s blog on the Albion web-site but I’ll try to summarise it here.
You create several bits of work that break the rules (“light lots of fires”, as Mark Earls has succinctly put it), then test them out online by creating Minimum Viable Products (which you can put on Facebook or Youtube or wherever you like, really), then use the very advanced metrics now available to fast-track the ideas which have real energy.
It may sound obvious, but how does it compare to the process your agency is currently using ?
It does away with waste-of-time-and-money research, it encourages stand-out work, and it delivers metrics so that the process can be inclusive in a company rather than the shielded-behind-the-hands procedure of working with a lone maverick.
Using this process, Glyn and a team at Albion produced the outstanding film of Keith Harris and Orville doing a hommage to Eminem for giffgaff.
There were various breakthrough bits of thinking along the way – including using the plight of a battery hen as an analogy for being trapped in a phone contract – and I was lucky enough to be in various appropriate rooms as this project evolved. But the final masterstroke of using a stuffed duck to illustrate the plight of the battery hen, sadly wasn’t mine.
(Although, to the casual observer, I’m the only person linked to the agency who’s remotely old enough to remember Keith Harris in his prime.)
If the idea sounds complicated, then maybe that’s how you would have killed it if you’d been in a meeting discussing it - indeed, I’m convinced that in a more “normal” process, it would have been killed exactly like that at some stage or another . But fortunately this process rides roughshod over such sliding tackles, like Lionel Messi carving his way through a couple of half-arsed retreating Albanian half-backs.
You just have to trust metrics, more than the usual uninformed and over-cautious subjectivity which passes for creative judgement in this industry.
And this leaves just one question begging.
Should one keep the left shoulder perfectly still through the back-swing ?
Glyn, I feel, might know the answer.