By 1941 the British had beaten the Italians in North Africa.
But Hitler couldn’t let North Africa fall.
So he sent Erwin Rommel and the Afrika Korps to take it back.
The Afrika Korps landed at Tripoli and began unloading their ships.
In the streets around the docks the British had spies, counting the tanks as they rumbled past.
The tanks drove out of the docks in a seemingly endless line, there must be hundreds of them.
How could the British Eighth Army fight a massive force like this?
When the news leaked out it made the Germans seem invincible.
It was massive blow to morale and gave the Germans a definite advantage in the subsequent fighting.
What no one knew was that Rommel only had about twenty tanks to unload.
Not enough to frighten anyone.
But he told his tank commanders to drive out of the docks into the street and then back round into the docks.
Then drive out again and just keep repeating that.
To the people watching outside the dock gates it seemed like an endless stream of tanks.
They didn’t notice it was the same twenty tanks going round and round again.
What Rommel knew was that what people believe is often more important than reality.
That’s what made him a great commander.
He fought a major part of the battle in the mind of the enemy.
If he could conquer the mind the rest would follow.
And he knew the way to conquer the mind was to maximise impact.
Because impact was what mattered.
Impact is also our job.
In the 1960s, Collett Dickinson Pearce started the creative revolution in British advertising.
For decades they were the best agency in the UK, if not the world.
I heard David Putnam talk about what made CDP better than any other agency.
He said it was about quality of course, but more than that it was about impact.
For instance, the particular account he worked on only had enough money for quarter page-ads.
So that’s what they had been doing, and no one noticed them.
What Putnam was told to do was spend all the money on a single double-page spread.
This was unheard of, in accounting terms it made no sense.
Looked at purely as numbers, a lot of little ads are more than one big one.
But that’s looking at ads like an accountant.
That’s not how real people look at ads.
CDP looked at ads creatively.
They figured, if no one noticed the quarter page ads when they ran, then no one would miss them if they didn’t run.
So they took that money and spent it on a huge double-page spread that did get noticed.
An ad that nobody could miss.
And immediately everyone was talking about it.
Immediately it changed everyone’s mind about what advertising could be.
Advertising wasn’t about frequency it was about impact.
And David Putnam said that’s where he first learned what real creativity was.
No one notices what you don’t do, they only notice what you do.