Lots of people know the story of Joe Simpson.
How, in 1985, he was climbing a mountain in Peru with his friend, Simon.
After days of climbing, they reached the summit, but on the way down Joe fell and smashed his leg.
The fall drove his shin-bone up through his knee and into his thigh bone.
Effectively, for a climber, he was dead at that point.
There was no way he could walk, let alone climb, and no way Simon could carry him.
All mountaineering logic said Simon should leave him there.
But against logic, Simon tried to lower Joe down the mountain by rope, bit-by-bit.
It was agonising for Joe and exhausting for Simon.
And then Joe suddenly fell over the edge of a cliff.
He was hanging in mid-air, with no way up or down.
He hung like that for an hour, he couldn’t hear Simon and Simon couldn’t hear him.
Eventually Simon decided Joe must be dead and cut the rope.
Joe fell over a hundred feet off the mountain into a pitch-black crevice.
When he recovered consciousness he started to crawl as best he could.
He dragged his shattered leg through the darkness until he saw a speck of light.
He crawled towards it and emerged into sunshine, ecstatic he hadn’t died in the crevice.
Then he looked at the distance left to crawl and thought: “You haven’t started yet mate.”
There were miles left to crawl, straight down over rocks, ice, crevices, and glaciers.
Even if he could do it, it would take him hours and agonising hours to crawl it.
And the only way to do it would be to give himself targets, he’d pick out a rock and say: “I must make that in twenty minutes”.
Then start dragging himself towards to it.
If he made it in 18 minutes he was elated, if it took him 22 minutes he was crushed.
Eventually he couldn’t drag himself any further, he lay back and let himself drift off.
Then a song started playing in his head: ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’.
And it played over, and over, and over – he couldn’t stop it.
It was a song he didn’t even like, but he couldn’t stop it playing in his head.
And he thought: “Bloody hell, I’m going to die here, listening to Boney M.”
And that thought made him roll over and start crawling again, just to escape the song and the thought of dying to Boney M.
And he dragged the shattered remains of his leg and crawled all through the night back into the base camp.
Just barely in time, because they were packing up to leave, thinking he was dead.
So what saved Joe’s life was a song he hated.
Something that forced him to get up and do something.
If it had been a song he liked, playing in his head, he’d have let go, laid there and died.
Very comfortably, very relaxed.
But what he needed was motivation, and motivation isn’t the same as enjoyment.
That’s what a lot of advertising people don’t understand.
We think our job is just to do things people like, nice things, but that isn’t always impactful or motivating.
What we like is often pleasant and soporific, very easy to fall asleep to.
Which is very different to something that stimulates a response.
Clients used to insist on a ‘call-to-action’ at the end of an ad.
But a call-to-action shouldn’t just be the tacked-on phrase ‘Buy Now’.
The call-to-action should be the entire ad.
The ad should be impactful, memorable, and motivating.
Otherwise it’s not an ad at all, it’s just a nice bit of pleasant decoration.