I just heard a great piece of advertising thinking and it wasn’t about advertising.

It was about the coming election and the Sunak/Starmer debate.

A listener called into a radio phone-in, and said:

“Supposing you’re having your kitchen refitted, and after 8 months you come home from work and the kitchen’s a total mess, the plumber’s up to his knees in water, the cabinets are broken, the doors are hanging off.

The plumber says “I’ll come back tomorrow morning and carry on working.”

You say, “Hang on, you’ve had 8 months and it’s a worse mess than when you started. Pack up your tools mate, I’ll find another plumber through the Yellow Pages.”

And there it is, more simple, common-sense than we’ve heard from all the politicians, in all the televised debates and analysis; all the sophisticated arguments summed up in a “simple, timeless, human truth”.

That’s what we should be doing, taking complicated subjects and putting them into simple language.

For instance, I find the transgender debate confusing, full of convoluted, esoteric arguments.

But my thinking was clarified by a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”

That puts the debate into language anyone can understand.

The master of simplifying complicated thinking was Franklin Roosevelt; in 1940 Britain was on its knees, it had run out of weapons to continue fighting.

Roosevelt sympathised and explained his complicated ‘lend-lease’ policy to the US government in easy-to-understand language, he said:

“When your neighbour’s house is on fire, you don’t refuse to lend him your hose.”

The Lend-Lease Act was passed and Britain got the weapons it needed.

When Mao Zedong criticised Deng Xiaoping because his plans for feeding a billion Chinese weren’t strictly Marxist doctrine, Deng explained it in simple language:

“It doesn’t matter what colour a cat is, as long as it catches mice.”

Elizabeth Warren explained in simple language why taxing the rich was fair and just:

“Nobody in this country got rich on their own.

The goods that you move to market travel on roads the rest of us pay for.

The workers you employ were educated in schools the rest of us pay for.

Your factory is safe from robbers because of a police force the rest of us pay for.

You had a great idea and made money – God-bless, keep a big chunk of it, but give some back to the people that paid to help you make it.”

Jackie Stewart explained in simple language that winning is a lot more complicated than just going faster:

“In order to finish first, first you have to finish.”

John Stewart Mill explained in simple language the flaw in Jeremy Bentham’s theory of Utilitarianism:

“If an innocent man is hanged and it makes 100 people smile, is that  ‘The Greatest Happiness for the Greatest Number?”

Picasso explained in simple language that intellectualising about something is a long way removed from actually doing anything:

“When art-critics get together they talk about meaning, and form, and structure.

When artists get together they talk about where to buy cheap turpentine.”

Walt Disney explained in simple language the dichotomy between getting attention and persuasion:

“We have to entertain in order to educate, because the other way round doesn’t work.”

Mary Wollstonecraft explained Hegel’s master-slave theory, and women’s suffrage, in simple language:

“Man will never be free until woman is free.”

Sartre explained Existentialism (the illusion of desiring freedom against the security of avoiding responsibility) in simple, memorable language:

“You are condemned to be free”.

Bob Paisley explained in simple language how he prioritised the right attitude when hiring young talent:

“The sort of lad we’re looking for will try to nutmeg Kevin Keegan on the training ground then stand aside for him in the corridor.”

Bill Bernbach explained the futility of seeking approval, in simple language:

“If you stand for something you will find some people for you and some people against you. If you stand for nothing you will find nobody for you and nobody against you.”

An ancient Chinese saying explained Plato’s Cave in simple language:

“What can a frog that lives in a well know of the ocean?”

Carl Alley put the AI dilemma into simple language, 60 years before AI even existed: “Machines should work, people should think.”

All those quotes are examples of how we should be doing our job.

Complicated thinking and simple words.

Not what we so often do: simple thinking and complicated words.