When GGT got really successful, we needed a bigger building in a hurry.
Mike Gold found the ideal solution.
There was a car park on Dean Street that was about to be turned into a large, stylish, modern building.
We loved the idea of a brand new building, but how long would it take?
The landlords promised Mike it could be up in a year.
It sounded too good to be true.
They said we obviously didn’t know about the advances in building technology.
Thanks to total climate-control, the regulations stated if the entire office block was air-conditioned, it didn’t need windows.
Of course it still needed glass to let light in.
But the air was kept clean and refreshed via air-conditioning.
So it didn’t need old-fashioned windows on hinges that could open.
Thanks to the new technology they could throw up the building in no time.
And, sure enough, we soon had a stylish, modern, brand-new building.
And, for a year or so, it was great.
Then our secretary, Nicola Jane, suddenly developed blotches.
Great purple patches.
And about a quarter of the agency developed blotches just like hers.
They went to the doctor.
The doctor said “This is unusual.”
We said “Why?”
The doctor said “They’ve got the plague.”
We said “The plague that killed half of London in the 1600s?”
He said “Yes, but we can cure it nowadays of course.”
We asked him where they could have got it.
He said, as they all worked together, they must have got it from the same place: the office.
We started to take the office apart.
We took the carpet up and looked in the space under the floor.
We took the ceiling tiles down and looked in the space there.
One-by-one we took the walls down.
The only thing left was the air-conditioning.
Bit-by-bit we took it apart.
And there it was.
The problem started before the building was built.
When the vacant lot was still a car park.
A nest of rats was living there.
As the building went up, the rats moved into the air conditioning.
When the building was finished, there was no way out and no food.
The rats starved to death.
Gradually their bodies rotted, and then eventually putrefied and turned to liquid.
This was circulated around the entire agency by the air-conditioning system.
Not being able to open the windows, everyone breathed it in.
Those that were allergic to it developed symptoms of plague.
We couldn’t solve the problem by airing the building out.
We couldn’t open the windows.
The technology that was the cause of the problem, was also the problem in solving the problem.
Eventually we had to move out of the building while all the air-conditioning was stripped out and replaced.
Much slower and more expensive than putting in windows in the first place.
But hey, who expected the plague?
I always remember that when people tell me the new technology is the answer to everything.
That the world has changed and everything that went before is now redundant.
The big talking point in the US at present is the Pepsi Refresh Project.
You can read the details here: http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/2011/03/social-medias-massive-failure.html
Apparently Pepsi took all their money off TV and put it into social media.
After a year they had lost 5% market share, slipped from second in the market to third, and sales were down $350 million.
So now they’ve dumped that strategy.
They’ve discovered that what makes sense is an integrated approach between broadcast-advertising and digital.
The new technology is great.
It’s a change, an addition, an improvement.
But it doesn’t mean the end of what went before.
Anymore than air-conditioning meant the end of fresh air