The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Chance For Adland …
May 24, 2010, 5:47 am
Filed under: Comment

So I finally got round to watching ‘Art & Copy’ at the weekend and all in all, I enjoyed it.

To be honest I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.

For me, it felt too much like it was preaching to the converted – I would have preferred to hear some more clients talking about the impact adland had on their business – but it was still enjoyable and I was very happy to see my 2 new bosses coming across as toptastic gents, but then even Pol Pot would look quite nice compared to the heads of the big 4 agency networks.

Saying that, one thing I did find incredibly interesting was being reminded just how brilliant some of the work from way back when, was.

Let’s face it, when people talk about the ‘old days of adland’ they tend to only talk about DDB’s “Beetle” ads or some terrible P&G soap spot that basically said if women weren’t married by 25, it’s probably their body odour.

Well you know what, there was a shitload of good work back then … work that would put many of today’s so-called hot agencies to shame,

One of the great protagonists was Mary Wells.

Not only was she the first female CEO to be listed on the NY Stock Exchange – quite a feat back in the uber-sexist 50’s – but she was also instrumental in the development of some breathtakingly creative campaigns.

She was the person who helped convince Braniff airlines they should paint their planes a multitude of colours to help differentiate from the competition [The End Of The Plain Plane] and she was also the person who helped create the iconic I Heart NY expression/logo to name but two.

Think about it … an ad person created possibly the most identifiable ‘tourism’ logo in the World … a logo that means more than all of Arnell’s ‘gravitational pull’ designs put together.

Now with the upmost respect to the Juan’s and Droga’s of the World … what have they done that is anywhere as big as that?

Don’t get me wrong, they’re great guys and have done some interesting and exciting stuff … but Mary Wells was living and selling ‘big ideas’ before either of these guys could even hold a pen, let alone log onto Youtube and find something weird/abstract that they could then be ‘inspired by’.

And this leads to the point of this post.

[Yes, there is one]

One of the guys in the doco said that whilst advertising had a role in business, it was still only advertising … it wasn’t art, it wasn’t literature, it wasn’t re-writing the future.

His exact words were – and I love this – that advertising reflects the future, it doesn’t affect the future … and you know what, he was right.

However I genuinely believe the opportunity to change that perspective is now.

Advertising does have the power to affect change rather than just reflect it … it does have the ability to create ideas that can positively affect the lives and environment of the wider community whilst still making our clients rich [ala my ‘Socialistic Capitalism’ paper] … it can be something that is seen as having intrinsic value to business and society but to do that, I believe more agencies have got to adopt the attitude of Mary Wells rather than David Ogilvy, because whilst he was a brilliant man, he made – for all intents and purposes – relatively traditional communication whereas she went out and created change rather than hoped to fuck her ads would make it happen.

As an industry we sit here, craving acceptance and applause from our peers, the business community and society as a whole … but if we are to stand any chance of achieving any of that, it requires us to do a number of things.

1/ Get back to selling, not telling.
2/ Get back to creating, not executing.
3/ Get back to really understanding society, not casually noticing it.

It’s not going to be easy … it might end in failure … but if we don’t try, then the things we can be sure of is our industry might never recover from its current downward spiral and that we’ll always have to live in the shadow of our brilliant elders and whilst I’m big on respecting them, I’d love to be part of people who re-write history and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way – both interms of ego and approach.

30 Comments so far
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I felt exactly the same when I watched the film. I enjoyed it, but I felt it was more a love fest for the creative community even though some of the comments were top drawer especially those from Mary Wells who was a total hottie when she was younger. 

You’re right how some of the stuff done back in the 60’s and 70’s would put plenty of today’s agencies to shame. There is this view adland used to make great or terrible traditional ads but this film shows that not to be the case. 

As soon as I heard the guy say advertising “reflects the times, doesn’t change the times” I knew you’d grab on to it which is why I love that you say we need to be more like Wells than Ogilvy if we want to recapture our creative cred. 

Of course Ogilvy was pretty damn special but Wells addressed issues rather than just focus on advertising which is why she is known for many of the things she did rather than said. 

The problem today is many want the glory but don’t want to put in the effort so they’ll go with the easiest route to achieve that, often a tvc or digital campaign. We talk about clients going with basic but we’re often just as bad.  

Changing the subject, have you seen the new NIKE football campaign by your new paymasters? What do you think of it?

All that aside, this is a great and passionate post and those 3 rules are as good as any I’ve read in the last couple of years. As much as people say anyone who works at W+K is fortunate I would say they are pretty lucky to have you working there as well.  

Comment by Pete

mary wells might of been hot hot hot when she was young but as weve seen with wonder woman and that bird out of buck rogers, age can be a fucking cruel enemy. but women shouldnt be judged on looks so who cares if shes a craggy faced retiree these days. apart from her husband that is.

good post campbell. never knew you had it in you but al pacinos farts make more stirring speeches than you, but b+ for effort, im sure the young kiddies will get their knickers in a twist over it.

pete. nice play for a w+k job. gone off george already?

Comment by andy@cynic

and answer the nike question campbell. with none of your political tap dancing around it either.

Comment by andy@cynic

I was not doing that Andy, I was just being nice and encouraging. You should try it some time. 🙂

Comment by Pete

and spoil the habit of a fucking lifetime?

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ll ignore the compliments because experience tells me that they’re either a trap to lull me into a false sense of security or you’re so fickle, you’ll change your mind in 2 seconds.

The NIKE ad is a feast for the eyes. It’s been done to tightly tie NIKE to the World Cup even though they’re not a sponser. 

The reality is the cost of this epic is massively less than Adidas will have paid for official sponsorship even though in the public’s eyes, I’d bet many will not realise NIKE’s involvement with the World Cup is more advertiser than associate.

Do I love the ad? 

I think it’s great. 

Do I think it’s worthy of all the praise?

As an ad – yes – however it is just an ad and whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, the way some in the industry are going on about it, you’d think it was the 2nd coming of Christ. 

It’s bold, entertaining and has a story that most footie fans will totally relate to (whilst being interesting enough to capture the attention of the people who think football is a yawnfest) … it also makes strategic sense to create such a relatively indulgent mini-movie, especially as the clever sods at WK have ensured it can be cut down to truly self contained ‘normal length’ spots … however do I think the praise being heaped on it is entirely worthy? 

Well based on the current standards of adland … yes … but based on what adland can be, I’d say it’s a bit over the top but we haven’t seen how this will all evolve over the coming weeks – though my hopes for a KesselsKramer “lowest teams World Cup” doco will probably be unfulfilled. 

I love NIKE and I obviously love WK, so I look forward to seeing how this all pans out and compares once the footie madness is over.

Politically incorrect enough for you?

PS) Great summation of Wells vs Ogilvy Pete. “Known by what she did, not what she said”. Viscious but excellent, ha.  

Comment by Rob

Oh, and for what it is worth, I’m excited to be part of an agency who not only does stuff like this, but does it for strategic reasons, not just creative ego reasons.

(I said that just for you Andy, ha)

Comment by Rob

Last thing, I’d rather we don’t take this post on a NIKE ad review tangent … a lot of people will be doing that and for once, the point I’m trying to make in this post is (at least for me) important and I’d rather hear people’s views on that than a universally accepted great television ad by a universally accepted great agency for a universally accepted great brand.

Comment by Rob

lionel fucking blair couldnt tip toe through the political quicksand like you campbell. i even agree with your review, did you put something in my fucking tea.

alright no more fucking nike. actually no more fucking anything from me, im off to the pub. good post campbell. fucking good post and your nike comment is fucking fair and bang on. what the fuck is going on? you being clever and me agreeing with you. is this all part of losts last mindfuck episode?

Comment by andy@cynic

How scared will the people at W K be reading this post. Not for the Nike comment, but knowing they’ve just put Simon Cowell in a senior position.

Good post and Nike review but I’d be fucking happy to have made that ad even if that’s all it will ever be.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Laudable aims but it begs the question – is advertising the most cost effective way to achieve them? Similarly does Nike need to be tied to the World Cup by an ad? Won’t that be achieved by the number of players wearing their boots?

Comment by John Dodds

I know what you’re saying John but I think if NIKE left their World Cup association just to the players who wear their shoes, they’d be making a big mistake.

As you know, the World Cup is more than just a game that lasts 90 minutes … it’s a drama that unfolds infront of your eyes and has more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamala movie and as such it needs communication that can tap into that and more directly link NIKE to the most significant moments in the tournament.

Of course there’s many ways this can be done – and who knows what NIKE have in store – but I think the rationale behind it is good especially as the investment required would be a fraction of what “official sponsorship” would be, especially as NIKE still get the sales benefit from people who want to buy items that are associated with NIKE, be it an individuals boots or a teams shirts.

Still hope for some other surprises though … surprises beyond the television/monitor screen.

Comment by Rob

I thought you said you wanted to keep this post on subject – stick to the brief. I was not offering a judgment on Nike – just asking the questions that spring to mind and to which I don’t have the answers, despite my central role in the football industry about which you already know.

And yes I appear to have insomnia.

Comment by John

It’s nowhere near as crap as an M. Night Shaymalain movie, but I know what you’re trying to say. And, in any case, with time -shifting, highlights and analysis the football is going to predominate.

Comment by John

fuck me I had this hole post about the corraltion between adland and political unstability and war as pre requesitis to do great work and how even today adlands scores on. Ur three points in countires that are post war.. Than. Drink spilled in my lap and ur crap fuck site erased it… it was the most lucid writing I did for ages… fuck

war= chaos = opportunity to get away with more stuff cause u mght not make it. Hence us in 50’s adland great, britain ( Satchi etc) during thacher falklands, great ad era..

war is what adland needs..though makes me
wonder why current finacual war is no ceased to do more…


Comment by Niko

This comment was brought to you by the makers of dutch alcohol.

Comment by John

I liked it.

Comment by John

U like Dutch alchohol? Over priced ketlle 1 crap? beer is ok, which reminds me of how heinekene had shady war past aswell..

now am really of before I make fool of myself.

Comment by Niko

Heineken are going to be a client of mine Niko so hold that thought … though judging by your comments today, holding your vomit might be the more important task. Ha.

BTW: I do agree with your war comment … or I think I do, it was rather alcohol infused so I’m not sure if I really have grasped what you were trying to say. ;).

Comment by Rob

And I particulary love how you spill your drink but blame me/my site for your “lucid post” not appearing.

With blame storming like that, you should be in politics. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Forgot to mention: hottest adland place at the mommwnt; brazil. Point in case…One crisis away from civil unrest on mass scale

reageaton the night.. goodnpost

Comment by Niko

I think John’s right … your spelling/typing makes Marcus and Northern look like English teachers.

Comment by Rob

I love that Nike ad more than I love this post, but I really, really love that Nike ad so that means this is pretty good. Those 3 pointers are great but it’s sad they may come as a surprise to some of the newbies in the industy. I tell you what Rob, I’m really excited to see what happens with you at W+K, I think it will be awesome.

Comment by Bazza

Niko’s comments have been fucking hilarious!

Back on topic, I agree with you about Art&Copy. Very few people these days are looking at business problems the way plain plane’s did, and even fewer clients are willing to back it when they do. In the end, even Nike spent a gazillion dollars making the best TV ad ever. But it’s still just a TV ad. Maybe I’m having an anti-advertising moment, but I came out of the Art&Copy screening (full of adland “Young Bloods” as they’re known here) and whilst everyone was in awe, I felt really put off by the whole industry and how IMPORTANT everyone thinks what they’re doing is. I couldn’t work out if the director had a sick love for advertising or whether he was having a laugh amplifying how ridiculous it all is (cause that’s how I read it). The whole sequence leading up to and eventually revealing the “Think Small” ad actually made me cringe it was that… “epic”.


In 30 years time, if people are hanging up iPod posters on their wall as art, then fuck me – as you’d say Rob – i’ll eat a kebab.


Comment by Age

Actually age, reading back
what i wrote, I to was being on topic..

I feel like one of them beauty contest winners who want to save baby seals but gets complimented on her boobs.. 😉

good morning to all on this fine bank holiday.

Comment by Niko

you know what i noticed about wikipedia’s summation of mary wells lawrence? she ran WRG for 25 years (mid 60s – 1990) when she sold it to DDDP.

and how long did it last with those boys at the helm? 8 years. and not even a stock market crash or GFC as an excuse.

see? leading by example.

man up fellas..

Comment by miss brown

Very enjoyable post Robert, especially your view on Mary Wells, a beacon of active advertising.

I haven’t seen the film as of yet, but following Age and your review, I am unsure whether I should.

Excellent comment about Mary Wells leadership qualities Miss Brown. I may be biased as I had the pleasure of meeting Mary a couple of times in the late 80’s, but what cannot be denied is she led her company with intelligent pragmatism, only to see the people who followed purely chasing money.

A nice post to start the week.

Comment by Lee Hill

Morning. The Nike ad’s good. The post’s good.
Advertising can influence culture and society at it’s best – but only when that’s what it sets out to do, which isn’t that often.

Comment by northern

so all campbells hopes and dreams have come true, a post on tangent thats praising him. it wont last, hell fuck it up tomorrow with something about pot noodles or something. still it was nice (for him) while it lasted. made me heave.

Comment by andy@cynic

I agree that advertising can change the future and not just reflect it. That is why I got into this field. I believe in it’s ability to change the future for the better.

Comment by Christina Cruz

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