At BMP, we were pitching for the COI ‘Fire Prevention’ account.

The second biggest cause of deaths through fires is chip-pan fires.

People leaving the fat on the stove while they go out of the kitchen.

So we did what everyone does.

We went through the usual knee-jerk thinking of let’s show people how terrible it is to have a fire.

Then they’ll realise they don’t want to have one.

As if, until that point, no one realised a fire was a bad thing.

“Oh, a fire can damage my house? Then maybe I’d better not have one.”

So that was the brief John Webster was given.

So John looked for a way to get this message to stick in people’s minds.

Most advertising just shows friendly people.

John thought it would be more unusual to have someone who was really angry, instead.

He wanted a fireman covered in soot after putting out a fire, who was furious about the damage to property and waste of life.

John thought it needed a mnemonic to register in people’s brains.

So he called the fireman Chip Pan Charlie.

And Charlie would yell at the viewers for risking chip-pan fires.

“If you go out of the kitchen and leave the chip-pan on the stove you’re asking for trouble. You’re a nutter.”

And the campaign would have the strapline, “Chip Pan Charlie says “Don’t be a nutter.”

And that’s what the agency was going to pitch with.

But a junior account man and planner had another thought.

They came to me and said, “We’ve been wondering how they’re going to measure the effectiveness of this campaign. How will they know if it’s been succesful?

The answer must be, the number of times the fire brigade are called out to  put out chip pan fires.”

Suddenly the brief changes.

It isn’t ‘scare people into not having fires’ anymore.

The brief becomes ‘reduce the number of call outs’.

So how do we do that?

The account man and planner said, “If we can tell people how to put the chip-pan fire out, they won’t have to call out the fire brigade.”


Right there was when we won the pitch, with that insight.

It’s a gift now for the creative department.

But we have to remember, this is a pitch for ‘Fire Prevention’.

So we will have to make it look so scary putting out a fire, that people won’t ever want to have one.

That way we can have our cake and eat it: Prevention and Solution.

So that’s what we did.

We showed people the 4 easy steps to putting out a chip pan fire, with the strapline, IF YOU DON’T LET IT START, YOU WON’T HAVE TO STOP IT.

The senior people at the agency didn’t want to pitch with it.

They had become attached to John’s ‘Chip Pan Charlie’ route.

But John thought our route was better.

So he made the pitch team dump his route and present our one instead.

(How many creative directors would do that?)

We won the pitch.

The work ran.

Fire Brigade callouts went down by 40%.

And, for those who care about awards, it won a D&AD Silver.


The most creative thinking often isn’t in the creative department.