Mark Twain tells the story of a young boy he met in the mid-West.
Every time a stranger came into town the other boys delighted in showing the stranger just how stupid this boy was.
They’d hold out two coins, a dime (10 cents) and a nickel (5cents), and tell the boy he could keep one.
He’d always pick the nickel because it was bigger.
Every time he did it all the other boys laughed.
Mark twain took him aside and said, “Son, I have to tell you that the small coin is worth more than the bigger one.”
The boy said, “I know that mister. But how many times do you think they’d let me choose if I picked the more valuable one?”
In the original context, the boy is stupid.
Change the context, and he’s smart.
This is what the government of Singapore did.
Singapore is a small island, and short of organs for transplants.
Like Britain, people are too lazy to carry an organ donor card.
So the Singapore government changed the law.
Everyone’s organs are automatically donated when they die.
Unless they carry a non-donor card.
Now Singapore has plenty of organs for transplants.
Because everyone’s too lazy to carry a non-donor card.
In the original context laziness was a problem.
Change the context and laziness solves the problem.
It works in advertising too.
London Docklands was an inner city development area.
Dockland’s main competitor was Milton Keynes.
It was portrayed in the ads as a pretty place to live, lots of green fields, cows and sheep, out in the country.
Docklands looked like an awful place to live by comparison.
So we changed the context.
Instead of looking for a great place to LIVE, you should be looking for a great place to WORK.
Paul Grubb and Steve Henry wrote the strapline, “WHY MOVE TO THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, WHEN YOU CAN MOVE TO THE MIDDLE OF LONDON”
By changing the context, moving a business to the country looked like a dumb thing to do.
It worked so well that Docklands now has the tallest buildings in Europe, and Milton Keynes still has green fields and cows.
And, of course, it’s true for media.
Roughly the same amount of people with money read The News of the World and The Sunday Times.
So, where would you put an ad for Rolex?
Think what the media says about the brand.
It’s not just about the ad, it’s about where it runs.
Like everything, it’s all about context.