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Many years ago, when we were running cynic, we decided we wanted to make Birthday and Christmas cards.
There was no reason behind it, other than a late night conversation over pizza and beer. [And Diet Coke]
To be honest, that was one of the best things about having your own company, you could just do stuff like that without needing to seek permission or take into account ‘corporate protocol’.
Anyway, we made a bunch of them – all with messages of errrrm, love – like the one above [though my favorite was, “Here’s hoping this is your last Christmas because I hate the presents you send me”] and amazingly they all sold out.
While we could have printed more – and who knows, maybe even of made a profit – the key for us was scratching an itch … doing something that we thought was interesting and fun.
Years later, while I was in the WPP machine, I was so fed up of scam ads, I set up a very short lived magazine called ‘Scampaign’ … where agencies could put their dodgy ads in it and claim it had been published so they could enter regional awards.
While it didn’t stop the scam pandemic, it at least made me a bit of money [emphasis on ‘a bit’] and I got to see all the entries without having to pay some award company a fortune to see them.
Why am I saying all this?
Because I think we’re all being far too sensible these days.
God, I know I am … but at least I have age as an excuse.
While adland is a serious business where we [are supposed to] understand and influence/inspire society on behalf of our clients commercial ambitions, we should also be a place where the slightly-off-the-wall feel comfortable enough to reside. The people who make life fun and interesting. The people who help you look at life in ways you might otherwise not see. The people who you’ll always remember for the right reasons.
Now please don’t think I am in any way suggesting I am one of these people and without doubt, there are – thankfully – some wonderfully eccentric characters still working in the business, but the sad fact is adland has kidded itself that the best way to get clients is to act like them and not only is that wrong, but it is alienating the very people that made us so interesting and influential in the first place.
As I’ve said many, many times, the reason we have lost our seat at the boardroom table is not because we didn’t look like business people, but because we didn’t talk about their business … but that doesn’t mean we should answer things in the way they would expect.
Jesus, if we do that, then what’s the point of having an agency?
Cheekiness is wonderful.
Of course it has to be executed in a way that is mindful of who it is impacting and what it is saying about you – but if done right, it is infectious, energetic and magnetic.
To be honest, the agency that best understood this was the wonderful HHCL … the professional radicals … but while there are still a few agencies out there who understand cheekiness is a positive attribute rather than a dangerous and rogue element, that shouldn’t stop us doing our bit to add life to the world we live in.
Word of advice though … whatever you do, do not auction off Sir Martin’s business card so someone can call him up all times of the night. That is not a good idea.
Not a good idea at all.
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