Before there were Planners, creatives used to do their own thinking.
This usually meant putting a persuasive argument together.
A really good place to start was often statistics.
Just look at the numbers, from different angles, and see how you could present them.
The first time I saw this was when I was being taught at Carl Ally in New York.
My teacher was an art director called Mike Tesch, who later did the Federal Express campaign.
He was working on a campaign for Chris-Craft houseboats at the time.
He showed me some ads he was doing, comparing houseboats to summer homes.
I don’t remember the entire campaign, but here’s an example.
There was a photograph on the left of some people sitting outside a chalet.
And on the right a photograph of someone water skiing behind a houseboat.
The line on the left said, THIS HOLIDAY HOME DOES NOTHING.
And the line on the right said, THIS HOLIDAY HOME DOES 30 MPH.
I thought it was good campaign.
But Mike said, “No it’s wrong, it’s too obvious, we’ve got a better idea.”
And he threw them away.
He took out a pencil and started writing numbers on a pad.
He said, “Every working stiff gets 2 days off every week. Times 50 weeks a year, that’s 100 days. Add to that the 2 weeks holiday everyone gets: that’s 114 days off a year. Divide that by 28 and it equals 4 months.”
Then he showed me the new campaign they had written.
It was a DPS featuring everything you could do on a houseboat: barbequing, touring the waterways, sleeping a family, water sports.
The headline said, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR 4 MONTH’S VACATION THIS YEAR?
I said to Mike, “I don’t know, I liked the other campaign, I thought it was cleverer. The headlines and pictures were snappier.”
Mike said to me, “This is a much bigger idea. This talks to everyone, whereas the other campaign only talked to people who were thinking of getting a holiday home. This talks to everyone who works, about how they’re going to spend their leisure time.
Much bigger audience, much bigger idea, Dave.”
It was a really good lesson for me.
Years later, when I was junior at BMP, we got a poster brief.
The brief was for the Renault 5, saying it did 56 mpg.
What the client wanted was just a shot of the car and a big headline: RENAULT 5 – 56 MPG.
I thought that seemed a wasted opportunity, so I started playing with the statistics.
If it does 56mpg, how much petrol would it take to go 1 mile?
Well there are 8 pints in a gallon and each pint is 20 fluid ounces.
So that’s 160 fluid ounces, divided by 56.
That’s roughly 3.5 fluid ounces per mile, give or take.
So what does 3.5 fluid ounces look like?
I looked in a cookbook and it said it was a tablespoon.
So that was our visual.
A tablespoon being filled by a petrol-pump nozzle.
And the headline, THIS IS ENOUGH PETROL TO DRIVE A RENAULT 5 A MILE.
So we ended up with a poster that was better than the original brief.
The only trouble was, I stopped thinking too soon.
Having got to the tablespoon of petrol, I should have kept looking for a more powerful visual way to demonstrate it.
About a year later I saw an American ad for Volkswagen Rabbit.
They’d been through the same thought process as me, but their ad was so much better.
Their visual was two hands holding up a kitchen towel soaked in petrol.
And the headline, THIS IS ENOUGH GAS TO DRIVE A VW RABBIT A MILE.