John Hegarty says, “A great ad is 80% idea. It’s also 80% execution.”
At the end of the 19th century there were many escapologists.
People who would be locked into seemingly inescapable situations.
They would then free themselves and wait for the applause.
Harry Houdini was different.
He didn’t think it was simply about escaping.
He didn’t even think it was about how difficult the escape was.
He thought it was about how difficult people thought the escape was.
So Houdini made every escape seem as difficult and dangerous as possible.
One particularly famous stunt took place in winter.
New York’s East River was frozen over.
Houdini was chained up.
He was put inside a sack.
The sack was put inside a safe.
And the safe was lowered through a hole in the ice.
The crowd waited.
Houdini’s air must be running out.
He must be in trouble.
Surely Houdini can’t survive without breathing.
After 15 minutes they pulled the safe up.
The door was open and Houdini was gone.
He must be dead, at the bottom of the river.
Just as that point Houdini emerged choking and coughing from the hole in the ice.
Unbelievably, he had survived something that would have killed any other human being.
The exploit made Houdini the most famous escapologist in the world.
In truth, he had been free of his chains before the safe was even lowered into the water.
He waited until the water covered the safe, then opened the door.
He hid under the ice for 20 minutes.
Breathing the air in the gap between the water and the layer of ice.
His greatest danger was boredom.
Then, when everyone must think he was dead, he climbed out.
Making as much of a display of near-death as he possibly could.
And it worked.
Of course Houdini was a brilliant escapologist.
But he recognised that a great escape was, “80% idea, but also 80% execution.”