BANANA: It’s 2003 and I find myself working for the kind of agency, and the kind of brand, that welcome this kind of idea. I was in creative heaven. The copy wrote itself in 10 minutes and it was certainly novel to attend an internal Creative Review
with a banana, not a layout.
It’s worth mentioning that, while it might be considered an iconic ad now, it wasn’t recognised in any way at Cannes, nor did it win anything at D&AD (though it did get into the book). Awards are never the proper yardstick to judge our ideas.
STAMP: It takes a confident, trusting client to approve an idea where their name is written in reverse
BONNET/SEAT/WHEELS/SPEEDO: These are a few of the launch ads in the ‘Power Of Dreams’ campaign. We wanted to make ads that looked different, talked about product benefits and spoke to people in a new, conversational, logical way. Out of interest, for many years every single Honda ad contained at least one question. It was one of the subtle, implicit ways that helped us to create the right tone of voice and position the brand in people’s minds as curious, thoughtful and open to all possibilities.
WHAT MAKES A HONDA AD A HONDA AD?
A few years after leaving W+K I was asked by the agency to give my take on the above question:
Mitchum was a quirky little brand, lurking unnoticed on the bottom shelf of Boots. But it was a brilliantly effective anti-perspirant. So I celebrated its lack of style with a curious visual look and distinctive tone of voice. A succession of playful posters appeared and, just two years later, the brand awareness they had generated had vaulted Mitchum onto Boots’ top shelf, where it remains to this day.
Clark’s Desert Boots
My first print campaign, created with Andy McKay and shot by the legendary Helmut Newton (for an eye-watering fee). Our brief was to tell people that the famous Desert Boot was designed and introduced by Clark’s and that all other desert boots were just copies. The boot was inspired by the suede and crepe shoes that army officers wore in Burma in 1949 but rather than write a history-based campaign like the other Creatives, Andy and I came up with a tongue-in-cheek fashion idea. Success followed: not just a sales increase of 200%, but national media column inches and some prestigious industry recognition. There’s something about adding a little humour to style that really works.
Brand Campaign: What if a glass of Gordon’s & Tonic was just represented by the colour green? A left field thought that led to 5 years of odd, silly, clever – and insanely branded – posters and press. They stood out a country mile and generated a lot of media attention. One man even contacted the agency because he wanted a life size copy of the ‘Bloody Mary’ 48-sheet poster so he could stick it on a wall inside his huge 16th century mansion.
We were happy to oblige. Wonder if it’s still there?
That curious gloop that you blob over a mouth ulcer to numb the pain and heal the wound. We cast real professional gurners to pull the worst faces they could. Most gurners are elderly and can pull weird faces because they don’t have any teeth – the young guy here was just a weird freak-face.
McDonald’s wanted a quick, one-off ad for a Charity dinner brochure. Not a very sexy brief and all the other Creatives ran away but Mark Tutssel and I fancied it. I guess we were right to think it was a creative opportunity as the ad went on to win a Cannes Gold, which was unheard of for Leo Burnett at the time.
A finance ad that feels like a consumer ad. Simple thought; simple line; striking picture. I once visited a provincial advertising agency and this was framed on their wall. Apparently, in the world of direct response, it was a bit of a landmark ad. Years later, I also discovered that the ad had been used as a question in an English Language A-Level paper.
A bunch of questions that explore how you think about driving. Of the three answers, if you keep find yourself saying ‘C’, then you are more suited to driving a Mercedes ‘C’ Class than you might have realised. An interactive idea before the internet had been invented. A labour of love and one of my favourite ads.
D&AD Cannes Young Creatives Competition
Ideas written from a personal truth always stand a chance of being good.
A Long Wave radio station whose point of difference was that their DJs talked less per hour than any other station. The use of a tape cassette in the visual ages the ad horribly, but so be it. For the record, no CG was employed – the guy we used really could fit a cassette into his mouth sideways. At the casting session, after every actor had told us about their latest acting jobs (Shakespeare; The Old Vic; etc, etc) we’d say, “That’s great. Now, would you just stick this tape in your mouth, please?”
No one would bother writing this ad today. Perhaps that’s a good thing? No, I don’t think it is.
We needed to give value and meaning to the expensive, high quality computers that Compaq made. Computers that lasted for ages and were super-reliable. Carl Le Blond and I pulled out a brilliant line hidden in the brief – Compaq costs you less than cheaper computers – and made it the star of the ads. (You can’t let your ego get in the way of doing the right thing.)
GOOD THINGS TO KNOW: The first ad set out the thinking by passing on this useful information about Compaq, along with other surprising nuggets from life.
OXFORD CIRCUS: We replaced every single written word in a vast street scene with our brand line.
LANGUAGES: We wrote the line in every single language in the world. Including Klingon.
POSTER HANDLE/TYPE MAN: Awareness ads to start seeding that Compaq made laptops as well as desktops.
Compaq Computers IT Support (B2B)
We needed to start overturning perceptions of Compaq as an unsuitable business brand. Companies weren’t installing Compaq computers because they didn’t think they were big enough to offer the right level of IT support. So we tackled the problem head on with endearing honesty. This ad was two consecutive double-page spreads.