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

Crazy Put The Great Into Britain …
March 2, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

A long time ago, I worked on a brand called Tango.

While it was available in a few other countries, it was basically the British version of Fanta.

And the fact it was the ‘British version’ was something I just couldn’t shake from my mind.

Basically I kept asking myself why would there ever be a British version of something so American when, back then, America was so bloody cool.

They had Ford Mustangs. We had Ford Sierra’s.

They had Star Wars. We had Blake’s Seven.

They had the Jackson 5. We had Bucks Fizz.

To cut a long story short, we kept asking ourselves a two-part question:

1. What is quintessentially British?

2. Will it make kids think it’s cool compared to the version from the US of A?

We discussed and explored a lot of things, but it was when we spoke to foreigners living in London that we uncovered a possible answer.

Very quickly, it became apparent that many of the things the Brits regard as normal behaviour was quite the opposite for our foreign friends.

Our love of queuing.

Our willingness to apologise for things we hadn’t done.

Our utter mad response to it being ever-so-slightly warm.

The more we delved, the more we discovered their confusion about our good-natured strangeness.

“Why do you pour a brown liquid over all your food?”

“Why is insulting someone a sign that you like them?”

“How do you work out who has to buy the next round of drinks in a pub?

We found this spirit of eccentricity really interesting so we asked fellow Brits what they thought.

While I remember no one said queuing or apologising or pouring gravy on their food was weird, they did speak in glowing terms about the slightly unhinged – but entirely good natured – spirit of ‘Britishness’, whether that was Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Raving Loony political party [which would still be less mad than the policies Trump is pushing] or the guy who invented a micro-sized, fully-working pistol so he could shoot flies out of the air.

And that is how a British carbonated soft drink stopped being compared to it’s American counterpart and took its place as a fully-fledged member of British culture.

And why am I telling you all this?

Because when I read the article at the very top of this post, it reminded me how wonderful British eccentricity is … even if now, our good natured crazy seems to have manifested itself into small minded, racist bigotry.

God, how I hope the good crazy comes back soon …

34 Comments so far
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fuck me campbell, i like this post.
best ad you ever worked on without me having to save your fucking sorry ass.

Comment by andy@cynic

Yep … you kindly handed over that responsibility to Chaz and Jim.

Comment by Rob

and the fucking gorilla in gloucestershire is the best fucking thing ive heard in ages. only taken 10+ years for this blog to finally have something useful in it.

Comment by andy@cynic

And all I did was steal an article that someone else had written about someone who actually did it. Basically the same approach to modern day creative development.

Comment by Rob

You brits are crazy.

Comment by Billy Whizz

That may be the case Billy, but at least we are British.

Comment by George

Sounding like a bit of a Brexit voter there George. Ha.

Comment by Rob

I’ve noticed that recent arrivals in this country have absorbed some of these eccentricities and when they want to move past you in the street or the supermarket, they don’t say excuse me, they very politely say “sorry”.

Comment by John

This news warms my soul John. Infectious eccentricity.

Comment by George

I’ve noticed how much you express love of the homeland but still strangely opt to remain in the sunshine of the golden state. Funny that.

Comment by John

Nothing makes you more patriotic than living away from your homeland.

Comment by George

Nothing makes me more miserable than living here.

Comment by John

Over 20 years old and still one of the all time best. I’d left HHCL for Chiat in LA by the time this happened and remember being very jealous of it. I still liked Blakes 7.

Comment by George

I used to watch Blakes Seven behind the sofa because it scared me. I then watched an old episode a few years back and felt nothing but distain to the show and to how pathetic I was as a kid. [Don’t add anything to that]

Seriously, find a way to watch an old episode, you’ll never admit to missing it again.

Comment by Rob

Can it really be 20 years? I can still remember the sparkle of mischief that appeared in your eyes when you were telling me what you were working on. Other nations may enjoy it, but only those who have lived in England can fully understand it. A classic.

Comment by Lee Hill

I know Lee. Twenty.

Comment by George

I like that summation of others like it, only those in the know truly get it. I’ll be using that.

And I’m happy you remember that time [must admit, I don’t] mainly because I have always been worried that the only thing you really remember about dealing with me was ‘the Australian incident’.

Comment by Rob

also known as the time campbell almost lost us the entire fucking virgin account. prick.

Comment by andy@cynic

One of my favourite ads ever, Campbell. Unfortunately now I know you were involved it’s a decision I shall have to revisit.

Comment by Paul Catmur

bet the only thing campbell did was take the drinks order from the people who actually did all the fucking work.

Comment by andy@cynic

And food. Don’t forget the food.

Comment by Rob

Thanks Paul. You’ve made today a successful day for me. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Great post Rob. I love hearing the story behind the story.

You inspired me to want to know more and I discovered there was a lot of brilliance behind this campaign.

The reason the ad was 90 seconds was because only Coca Cola could afford that length of spot so it was your way of declaring war, even though you only could afford to run it 10 times. Because of that limited exposure, the ad forced you to adopt a shift in media planning approach from ratings to audience engagement. So much good stuff.

Comment by Pete

Is this right Robert? If it is, it is fantastic.

Comment by George

Yep. Though to be honest, I’d forgotten about the rationale for the 90 seconds. And the limited run of ads. Now I think about it, I think it ran once a week for 6 weeks at one stage … but I could be totally wrong. As usual. Ha.

Comment by Rob


Comment by DH

Great, now I’m fucking watching all the Tango ads ever made… I guess there could be worse ways to waste time.

Comment by Riaad

I still like Bucks Fizz
Worked on a 3 month project with a German office, we had to have a ‘sit down’ half way because the Germans thought we meant what we said and because the Germans actually meant what they said
That said eccentricity covers up a multitude of evils – eg Boris Johnson

Comment by northern

you better mean you like bucks fizz because of the dress removal gimmick or youre more fucked than i thought you were.

Comment by andy@cynic

Mostly because of Jay Aston

Comment by northern

I want a pet gorilla too. Someone that makes their bed and cleans up too. Sounds like a great roommate. Thanks for the post.

Comment by historyoftelephony

just had a can of yank tango.

thats fanta to the rest of you fuckers.

tasted like shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

[…] bubble … I’ve been able to meet people and hear stories that have had a huge impact on the work I’ve done and the opportunities I’ve […]

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[…] I’ll save the reasons behind why someone would do that – and what I would visit it – for another day, though it does perfectly capture the English eccentricity that led to the Blackcurrant Tango ad, St George, that I wrote about here. […]

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