Many years ago, Saatchi did some great work on the HEC Anti-Smoking account.
Shots of the thick black tar that gathers in a smoker’s lungs, gritty shots of someone trying to scrub the nicotine off their fingers.
A cinema commercial with a teenage girl saying about a boy: “He looks nice but he smells like you could get cancer just kissing him”.
A lot of people quit smoking due to that advertising.
Then the HEC Anti-Smoking account left Saatchi and went to AMV.
So Saatchi got the Silk Cut account instead, and did great work on their posters.
Artistic 48 sheet shots of purple silk, cut in elegant ways.
Those ads sold a lot of cigarettes.
So Saatchi went from anti-smoking to selling cigarettes.
Nowadays that would be a scandal in the advertising trade press.
Shocked journalists would clutch their pearls and swoon: “How COULD Saatchi be so hypocritical?”
Nowadays we are supposed to be fully paid-up card-carrying members of whatever product or brand we advertise.
We not only do advertising, we must be moral guardians too.
When I was a young copywriter at BMP, I asked Chris Powell, the MD, how he felt about advertising cigarettes.
Chris said: “We are like solicitors, we appear for the prosecution or the defence, according to who has employed us. As long as the product being sold is legal it’s our job to put the case as best we can. It’s not our job to decide whether a product should or shouldn’t be sold, that’s up to the law.”
That seemed fair to me, it’s not our job to make the law, it’s our job to do the best advertising we can.
I once asked Mary Wear, CD at AMV, why she went into advertising.
Mary said: “Well there’s a lot of it around, most of it isn’t very good. I just thought “Why can’t it be better?” A bit like buildings really, there are lots of them everywhere, why do they have to be ugly, why can’t we just do them better?”
Mary’s answer stayed with me.
There always will be advertising, just like buildings: why can’t they be better?
I liked Mary’s answer because it didn’t expect us to be moral guardians.
Just do our job and make things better.
Architects should build better buildings, we should make better advertising.
When I was at BMP I worked on the Labour party, when I was at GGT I worked on the LibDems, I didn’t have a sudden political awakening, they were clients.
In my experience, the trouble with zealots is they become subjective, they take it very personally and consequently begin talking to themselves.
I think it’s better to remain objective, that way we can respond rationally, not emotionally.
Neil Godfrey didn’t smoke cigarettes, but he did some great ads for Benson & Hedges.
Paul Arden didn’t smoke cigarettes, but he did some great ads for Silk Cut.
I did a lot of anti-Third World debt advertising, targeting the high street banks, because the banks were responsible for the crisis.
I also worked for some of those banks.
The money I made from those banks paid for a lot of anti-Third World debt advertising.
I also gave 10% of the salary I earned to Oxfam and 10% to Save the Children.
(Which, IMHO, was a lot more useful than the pose of refusing to do bank advertising.)
A lot of people seem to have forgotten that this is a business.
The business is communication and persuasion.
We are not puritans, put here to decide what is right and wrong for everyone else.