Y&R is in the big building at Mornington Crescent.
But there’s another agency in that building, too.
It’s an American agency called Wundermann.
Apparently, one day the owner flew in to visit his agency.
He was a big, brash New Yorker.
He drove straight into the car park below the building.
The gruff cockney parking attendant stopped him.
He said “Where you going guv?”
The American was indignant.
He said “I’m parking of course.”
The parking attendant said “You gotta permit?”
The American said “No.”
The parking attendant said “Then you ain’t parking here.”
The American was outraged.
He said “Do you know who I am?”
The parking attendant shook his head and said “No.”
The American got out of the car, raised himself up to his full height, tapped his chest and said “I’m Wundermann.”
The parking attendant said “I don’t care if you’re fucking Superman. You ain’t parking here.”
I love that story.
I love what it tells us about ourselves.
Our whole world is advertising, so we think everyone’s whole world is advertising.
That’s why so many of us are so bad at it.
We don’t think it’s our job to talk to people outside advertising.
We think it’s their job to pay attention to us.
So we’re not talking to people, we’re talking to ourselves.
As Bob Levenson said “Most people ignore advertising because most advertising ignores people.”
That’s why only the best advertising actually works.
Because it talks to people who aren’t in advertising.
But it takes a brave agency show a client that.
Years back there was an ad agency called Allen Brady and Marsh.
ABM was a very showbiz agency, not very fashionable.
They were pitching for the British Rail account against some very good agencies.
ABM was the underdogs.
If they were to stand a chance they had to find a way to prove they knew something the other, more fashionable agencies didn’t.
Apparently, on the day of the pitch, the top management of British Rail tipped up at ABM.
They walked into reception and it was deserted.
The chairman checked his watch, they were on time.
He looked around, no one.
Just a very scruffy reception area.
Crumpled newspapers, litter, cigarette ends on the floor, cushions with holes burned in them.
This looked like the worst agency they’d been in.
Eventually a scruffy woman appeared and sat behind the desk.
She ignored them and started rummaging in a drawer.
The chairman coughed.
She ignored him.
He coughed again.
He said “Excuse me, we’re here to see….”
The woman said “Be with you in a minute love.”
He said “But we have an appointment….”
She said “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
The chairman said “This is outrageous. We’ve been waiting fifteen minutes.”
The woman said “Can’t help that love.”
The chairman said “Right that’s it, we’re leaving.”
And the top management of British Rail started to walk out.
At that moment a door opened and out stepped the agency creative director, Peter Marsh.
He’d been watching everything.
He shook the chairman’s hand warmly.
He said “Gentlemen, you’ve just experienced what the public’s impression of British Rail is.
Now, if you’ll come this way, we’ll show you exactly how we’re going to turn that around.”
And they took the British Rail management into their boardroom and went through an all-singing, all-dancing presentation of how bright the future could be, if ABM was their agency.
Which, of course, it became.
All by turning the telescope around and looking at it from the other end.
The people’s end.
Instead of the advertising agency’s end.