My art school was in Brooklyn.
They used to send us into Manhattan once a week, to learn from the pros on Madison Avenue.
One evening, while I was waiting for the class to start, I was sitting in a coffee bar on Times Square.
I noticed a black girl sitting at the counter.
She had a white Band-Aid on her leg.
I though, hang on, that’s supposed to be flesh-coloured Band-Aid.
But it’s not her flesh colour.
Why not?
Why shouldn’t flesh colour mean everybody’s flesh colour?
In fact, why not make Band-Aids in different flesh colours?
You could have Band Aids in Light, Medium, and Dark.
How cool would that be?
Then I thought, this could be an actual product.
In which case I could do an advertising campaign for it.
Which would be great because it would be a brief no one else would have in their book.
So I designed the packs, and wrote some ads.
One of them that went down really well, had the headline:
(That was a white area, a Puerto Rican area, and a black area.)
Then I thought, where would I run ads like that?
White people already have their flesh colour Band-Aids.
So I’m after Hispanics and Blacks.
Where do I find them?
Well, just like London, most of the people in cabs and cars are white.
Lots of the people on public transport aren’t.
So I’ll run them as posters on the NYC subway system.
And that was one of the campaigns I put in my portfolio.
In fact, that’s how I put my whole portfolio together.
Whatever it took to be different.
Everyone else was doing single ads, I’d do campaigns.
Everyone else was doing executions, I’d do strategies as well.
Everyone else was doing press ads, I’d do media plans as well.
If I’m doing what no one else is, I must look better at it.
Because I’m competing in a field of one.
Notice how different that was to the way youngsters do it today.
No one does an ad until they’re given a brief.
Well it’s not their job to write a brief.
So they call up various creative directors and ask if they have any briefs they can let them have.
Because they can’t be creative until someone gives them a brief.
They’re never going to be this free again in their lives.
They can be client, planner, account man, and media department.
For the only time in their lives, they can’t grumble about anyone else stopping them doing great ads.
And they don’t do it.
No one think about strategy, it’s not their job to do that.
No one thinks about media, it’s not their job either.
So everyone competes in the tiny little area of pictures and headlines.
And that little area is growing smaller and smaller.
And you know what?
It’s getting harder and harder to be different.
You now why?

Because it’s not a very creative way to think.