In 2,000AD the Millennium Bridge opened.
Designed to be a footbridge across the Thames between old London and new London.
So people could walk between the St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern.
The footbridge was called “The Blade of Light”.
The vision came from one of Britain’s foremost sculptors: Sir Antony Caro.
The design from one of Britain’s foremost architects: Sir Norman
The engineering came from one of Britain’s foremost engineering companies: the Arup Group.
The footbridge was absolutely beautiful to look at.
A perfect showcase for modern Britain.
There was one slight drawback.
You couldn’t walk on it.
Of course, this was something of a problem.
A footbridge that people couldn’t actually walk on.
What happened to the bridge was called “positive feedback”.
When people walked on it, it swayed slightly.
As it moved in one direction, everyone obviously moved in the opposite direction.
This increased the swaying like pushing a swing.
The bridge had to be shut immediately.
It was supposed to carry 5,000 people at a time.
It couldn’t handle a quarter of that.
It took two years and £5 million to fix it, before people were allowed to actually walk on it.
The greatest design brains in the country were given a footbridge to design and they couldn’t do it.
I think that’s the perfect metaphor for modern Britain.
All the massive brainpower involved in designing the bridge going through the checklist:
“Looks beautiful?” – “Check.”
“Amazingly modern?” – “Check.”
“Impressive list of names?” – “Check.”
“Innovative design?” – “Check.”
“Stylish use of materials?” – “Check”
“Okay for people to walk on?” – “What, er, hang on a minute, no, sorry we never got around to that part.”
You see the brief was for a footbridge that was trendy.
What happened was that the footbridge part got forgotten in the desire to be trendy.
All concentration was on the ‘trendy’ part.
The footbridge part was ignored.
And that’s exactly what’s happened to advertising.
What we have is acres of trendy advertising that doesn’t work.
Because everyone’s forgotten the job of advertising:
1) Who is it for?
2) Why should I buy it?
That’s how ordinary people think.
But we don’t do advertising for ordinary people.
People from Shoreditch do advertising for other people from Shoreditch.
And they’re not interested in anything so banal as the name of the product, or why you should buy it.
But they can design a beautiful bridge you can’t walk on.