My family and I were recently sitting in a cab in Buenos Aires.

There was a lot of traffic, the cab was stopped at the lights.

In front of us, a young woman stepped off the kerb.

She stopped in the middle of the road and began waving two large red flags.

She began by making large fluttering arcs, first separately then together.

Then in opposite directions.

Then spinning around as she rotated the flags.

Then she threw them high in the air and caught them expertly.

All the while moving backwards and forwards in front of the cars.

After about half a minute she stopped.

The lights changed.

As the traffic moved past her, most of the cars slowed and gave her money.

The young woman had put on an excellent show.

She knew exactly how long the lights would stay red.

She timed her performance to fit.

And she repeated it each time the lights changed.

If people hadn’t been in their cars they would have applauded.

Instead they gave her money.


The next day we were in another cab, at another set of lights.

A young man walked out in front of the waiting cars.

He began juggling.

First simply tossing the balls in the air and catching them.

Then bouncing them on the ground and catching them.

Then alternating between the two, while spinning around as he did it.

Again, he stopped just as the lights changed.

Again, most cars slowed and gave him money as they moved off.

Contrast that with the experience at London traffic lights.

Someone with a dirty sponge comes along the line of cars.

You’re hoping the lights will change before they get to you.

You wave your hand to tell them no.

But usually they put the sponge on your windshield anyway.

You don’t want your windshield cleaned.

Even if you did, there isn’t time to do it properly here.

They just smear the grime and get suds over the paintwork.

This isn’t about exchanging money for services.

This is trying to embarrass you into giving them money.

Contrast that with the Buenos Aires experience.

Both last about thirty seconds.

Both involve someone trying to persuade us to part with money.

Notice any parallels between that and what we do?

Thirty seconds, persuasion, money?

Also, notice which one works better.

Not the London way, which is about pestering and nagging you into paying.

But the Buenos Aires way, which is about charming you into parting with money.

In London, the window-washer is an irritation, a nuisance.

In Buenos Aires you actually want to give the performer some money.

To show your appreciation for the entertainment.

In London the people approach your car and you have to make an active effort to be left alone.

In Buenos Aires no one approaches your car.

This is a different kind of advertising.

Not intrusive and hectoring.

But realising, if they are asking for your attention, they must give you something in exchange.

Something that will entertain and amuse you.

Something you like.


Remember when we used to do advertising like that?