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

You Can Fool Some People, Some Of The Time …
October 23, 2012, 6:12 am
Filed under: Comment

This is a very weird post for me to write – even weirder than normal – because it’s regarding an experience I’ve never had before.

Given I’m in my 40’s and have done a stupendous amount of ridiculous things in my life – liking Queen, not included – that’s quite impressive.

Anyway, a while ago a friend of mine, Paul Catmur – the very clever & talented ECD/Partner of Barnes, Catmur & Friends in NZ – got in contact, because a mate of his, Steve Harrison, wanted to talk to me.

Now I know what you’re thinking:

Steve Harrison must be a member of Interpol.

Steve Harrison must be an international tax auditor.

Anyone who introduces a friend of theirs to me, is no friend.

… but you’d be wrong – except for point 3 – but let’s move on because it is about to get a whole lot weirder.

You see Steve Harrison didn’t work at Interpol, nor was he an international tax auditor … hell, he wasn’t even a planner who wanted a job … Steve was an author and he wanted me to read his latest book.

Now that alone is amazing, but when you hear why he wanted me to read it, you’re going to fall off your chair.

Are you sitting down?

Seriously, you’re going to want to.

OK … OK … don’t say I didn’t warn you.

You see the reason Steve wanted me to read his book was because he’d read this blog and thought I might like it.

That’s right, he’d read this rubbish and still thought I’d be worth getting a free copy of his hard work.

Naturally I assumed his book must be about Birkenstocks … or gadgets … or maybe Nottingham Forest, but it wasn’t any of those things, it was about advertising.

When I heard that, I took it he’d written ‘Advertising For Dummies’ and wanted to use me as a test dummy, but it wasn’t even that … it was a book about the remarkable life of the irrepressible, advertising visionary, Howard Gossage.

The word visionary is often overused, especially in adland, but in this case it’s absolutely deserving.

So are the words, bold … brave … whip smart … creative and iconic.

Now I appreciate some people reading this will question that given they haven’t heard of Gossage, but I hope you don’t mind when I say I don’t really care.

OK, that’s a bit rude.

What I mean is that just because someone isn’t as well known as someone like David Ogilvy, doesn’t mean they’re not as valid.

That would be like saying someone at FCB can’t be as creative or smart as someone at Droga5, which is obviously bollocks.

I suppose the bigger issue is that too many people today view anyone who worked – rather than works – in adland as irrelevant.

Hell, I’ve met people who don’t even know who Bernbach is.

Look, I know these people are from a bygone age, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from their views, opinions and ideas.

In fact, when I see some of the rubbish our industry puts out today – either as opinions or as work – I’d say they’re a hell of a lot more relevant than many of the folks we place on our shiny pedestals.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a whole bunch of people who are as imaginative, bold, brave and iconic as some of the past masters … but I guess all I’m saying is there’s as much you can learn from the masters of the past as there are from the masters of today. Even more so, given many of them are the folk who influenced and inspired the people we regard so highly today.

Which gets me back to Gossage.

If Ogilvy was The Beatles then I would say Gossage was The Rolling Stones.

Less polished and packaged and more provocative and challenging.

So much of what we talk about today – be it tension points, story telling, product invention, social impact – he was saying decades ago.

Actually he was doing more than that … he was actually executing it.

Without him, I genuinely wonder whether we would have the Wieden’s, BBH’s, Crispin’s and Droga’s to name but a few.

Steve’s book captures all this.

It educates, confronts and inspires.

It challenges your values and standards.

It fills you with excitement and promise.

It makes you want to strive for better.

In short, it makes you fall in love with this industry all over again.

It’s that good.

Now I appreciate a recommendation from me is like getting a recommendation for a creche from Jimmy Saville, but if you want to see what you and adland are capable of becoming – whether you’re a planner, creative, suit or client – then I urge you to read this book, because I assure you that you won’t regret it.

In fact it might be the first – and last – thing you ever thank me for.

You can read Steve’s view about it here and buy it here.

50 Comments so far
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Why are you acting like you never get sent freebies. Isn’t that the story of your life?

Comment by DH

People normally send Robert free items to encourage him to leave them alone. Author Steve sounds like he sent his book to Robert to try and get closer to him. If he’s anything like me, he will regret that within a week.

Comment by Bazza

Is Steve a midget too?

Comment by DH

You wanted to get closer to Robert?

1. Sick pervert bastard.
2. You could have hidden in his pocket and given me all the free shit.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Still trying to pull off your petulant teen schtick I see Billy.

Comment by Bazza

dont be fucking nasty bazza, you know billy is not like normal fuckers.

Comment by andy@cynic

See my comment to Dave, Bazza. I bought my own iPhone 5 thank you very much. And what do I get for it? A substandard, stretched iPhone 4S with a crap maps app. That will teach me.

Comment by Rob

I’d like to point out Dave that I bought my own iPhone 5 thank you very much. With my own money. I’m still in shock over that too.

Comment by Rob

you mean you bought it with the money you stole off me.

Comment by andy@cynic

I bet Gossage would be ecstatic to hear you were asked to evaluate his life’s work. That’s a bit like Steve Jobs getting career advice by the cleaner at the Job Centre. In Walthamstow.

Comment by DH

or by a sales fuck from radio shack.

Comment by andy@cynic

It would be impossible to write a bad book about Gossage, he was so interesting and provocative. Steve’s choice of reviewer might be questionable, but not his subject matter. Mind you, I’ve just ordered the book from this post so maybe Steve has the whole KOL ridiculousness sussed.

Comment by Pete

This is a good post by the way Robert. Especially the post “chair” part, where you go in to rightful rant mode. Maybe not to Gossage’s standard, but just as pointed, purposeful and provocative.

And the Ogilvy/Beatles, Gossage/Stones is a fantastic analogy.

Comment by Pete

If Rob is a KOL, then the World is officially over.

Comment by DH

Maybe Pete meant Rob was an influencer in the nottingham, queen fan, birkenstock wearing community. He’d be very fucking influential with them.

Don’t know how many books they can buy when they’re all in maximum security jails, wearing jackets that have no sleeves.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I think it’s simply a case that Steve thought he was writing to the Robert Campbell of Rainey Kelly founding fame, not me. Now he’s realised his mistake, I fully expect him to ask for his book back and for me to delete this post.

Comment by Rob

finally something you say that makes some sort of fucking sense.

Comment by andy@cynic

“It educates, confronts and inspires. It challenges your values and standards. It fills you with excitement and promise. It makes you want to strive for better. In short, it makes you fall in love with this industry all over again. It’s that good.”

That is an incredible review of the book Robert. It sounds like it should be mandatory and essential reading for every person involved in advertising, from agency to client to researcher. That said, your review could have simply stated “it’s not Ogilvy on advertising” and I would have been seduced.
Congratulations Steve on writing a fantastic book about a fantastic pioneer, I have just ordered a copy from Amazon.

Comment by George

Or “it’s the opposite of this blog.”

Comment by Billy Whizz

fuck me, auntie george getting a few kicks in on ogilvy. to what do we owe the pleasure? who the fuck cares. welcome to the club. what the fuck took you so long?

Comment by andy@cynic

I am ashamed to admit that I have never heard of Gossage. My only defence being I am not directly associated with anything marketing or advertising. It is, I admit, not a good defence, but it is all I can offer right now. Based on the overview in this post, he sounds a remarkable and intriguing character so I will definitely investigate. Thank you Robert for bringing him to my attention and thank you Steven for writing what appears to be, a wonderful book on a fascinating individual.

Comment by Lee Hill

By the way Robert, I am in your neighbourhood for 3 days. It would be good to catch up. I’m on the usual number.

Comment by Lee Hill

You never learn do you Lee.

Comment by DH

you know youre suffering from battered housewife syndrome dont you lee.

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh Lee … let me educate you over dinner. I’ll call.

Comment by Rob

on lees fucking expense account i assume.

Comment by andy@cynic

fuck me, a post i agree with.

gossage rocked.

without him the chances of a w+k, bbh etc would be much fucking lower.

he makes ogilvy look like a choir boy with a few good headline grabbing puns.

in fact the only fucking thing i dont like about this post is the author wanted to send campbell a freebie copy. not just because campbell gets more free shit than paris fucking hilton, but it implies he is worth sending something to and that couldnt be more wrong than mixing megan fox with that fuckwit off 90201 or whatever teen shit television bollocks he came from.

now campbell, send me your free copy of the book and well call it quits.

only joking, you owe me absofuckinglutely everything.

Comment by andy@cynic

I will forever be in your debt. Whether I like it or not.

Comment by Rob

Hmm, sounds very interesting. Will check it out.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Why can’t you buy it on kindle? What sort of visionary doesn’t make their book available for new technology?

Comment by Billy Whizz

I don’t know what shocks me more.

1. You want to buy a book.
2. You want to buy a book I recommended.
3. You have a Kindle.
4. You want to buy a book for a Kindle.
5. You want to buy a book for a Kindle I recommended.

Comment by Rob

Now you know why he sent you the book.

Comment by Marcus

Yes. Because of you lot. Not me.

Comment by Rob

Ordered it, I hope it’s as good as the man.
By the way, I read Hegarty’s book, that wasn’t.

Comment by northern

I know … how disappointing. No drama or turmoil, just a read of classic revisionist history.

Comment by Rob

Straight onto my Christmas list. Thanks.

(Yes, I still write Christmas lists. I am 9. Clearly.)

Comment by curlydenaDena

You are so good.

Comment by Rob

We all know that `Mad Men’ has prompted an interest outside an agency’s walls, in a time when men were men, women wore hats to the office, and a quick lunchtime bite meant chewing on the olive in your third martini.

What is rather endearing about the creative output of SCDP is that the ads are pretty much awful; the series’ creators have been carefully not to give this medium-sized agency any of the iconic work of the time, with the exception of DDB’s Volkswagen work.

Which means that no-one gets to see the work of Howard Gossage, in Steve Harrison’s words, `1960s America’s most innovative, influential and irreverent advertising genius’.

Harrison’s well-written, researched and produced book is part biography, part ad analysis, and gives enough examples of Gossage’s creative output to provide credibility to the claim. With an agency that never expanded beyond 15 people in a converted San Francisco firehouse, he managed to change public policy on environmental issues for the Sierra Club, launch Marshall McLuhan onto an unsuspecting world, and show that consumers were more easily reached and retained through an understanding of their intelligence and emotions than through Rosser Reeves’ prescriptive mantra of the USP.

This portrait of a remarkable individual is well-served by Harrison’s clear admiration for the man and a concise examination of his achievements. (And coming from a highly-respected and awarded creative, author of `How To Do Better Creative Work’, that’s praise indeed)

Gossage would have been an extraordinary individual in any advertising era, except perhaps this one, when his talents might well have been swamped by the plethora of timid beancounters and Big Dumb Agencies. He was clearly interested in changing the world, having already changed advertising: you could picture him as a globalist, a UNESCO ambassador, a fighter for small nations (see his work for Anguilla). He could certainly have produced excoriating work damning the global bankers who have led us to where we are today.

He was certainly a visionary. Harrison points out the remarkable way in which Gossage foretold the way in which the Internet has provided the means of continual assessment and analysis of consumers, through his use of coupons, not just to sell, but to enquire, to engage, to find out what the people who read his work thought. At the same time, he never lost sight of the commercial reasoning behind his work. He never joined the ranks of what Bill Bernbach called the ‘phonies’.

In short, Howard Gossage is someone from whom every creative – young and old – can learn, and Harrison’s book is the ideal place to start. (Then save up and buy ‘The Book of Gossage’.)

Finally, what comes across more than anything else is the man’s humanity. What else can you do but admire a man who in the final agonies of leukemia manages to write and personally thank each of the people – unknown to him – who donated the blood used in his transfusions? More than a great ad man, a pretty remarkable human being as well.

Comment by Tom Callaghan

Don’t need to read the book now.

Comment by Marcus

Less there is for books, more there is for beer.

Comment by DH

I’m not sure Steve would appreciate someone coming on here and writing a supremely detailed review of his book, but as he has already received my $20, I suppose he can let it pass. On a positive note, you have increased my anticipation of the book tenfold.

Comment by Pete

Nobody reads long copy.

Comment by John

I think I’ve just proved that statement wrong. Neil French will be ecstatic.

Comment by Pete

Does that make you nobody?

Comment by John

Robert will be rather pleased to given his “people read what interests them. Length doesn’t matter.”

Comment by Pete

On this blog, quite possibly.

Comment by Pete

On this blog, that is quite a relief.

Comment by Pete

Well Rob also trotted out that old Beatles?Stomes analogy. Next he’ll be describing someone as Bernbach on acid.

Comment by John

Bernbach on diet coke.

Comment by DH

havent any of you fuckers got jobs to go to?

judging by the length of toms comment, he hasnt.

based on northern groper comment from yesterday, he wont soon.

and we all know my fucking mr mom, dog walker bollocks new life.

this blog is fast becoming the social club for the unemployed. as if life wasnt fucking shit enough already.

Comment by andy@cynic

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