Ronnie Kirkwood once asked me about an idea he’d had to raise Reader’s Digest’s profile amongst ad agencies.
He thought, once a month, they should give top creatives a free DPS to write an exciting ad promoting adult literacy.
This would get creatives competing to do the best ad, and talking about Reader’s Digest.
I thought it was a good idea, but I persuaded Ronnie to let each team pick their own charity.
Because I wanted to do an Anti Third World Debt ad.
Now one of the main problems in the third world is that polluted drinking water kills 500,000 babies and children a year.
While I was thinking about this I realised an amazing fact.
We flush our toilets with the same pure, clean drinking water that comes out of our taps.
Third World children would actually be better off drinking from our toilets.
So that’s the ad we did for Reader’s Digest.
The editor wouldn’t let us show a picture of a toilet, he felt it would offend his readers.
So we wrote the headline on a roll of toilet paper.
Then Julian Neuberger, our media planner, said he’d found a way to get us some cinema ads.
The mainstream cinemas wouldn’t touch it, because it would offend the banks that spend millions on commercials.
But he said Romaine Hart, who ran the ‘Screen’ chain of cinemas, was willing to run anti Third World Debt ads for free, in her theatres.
So I asked one of the young writers, Little Jim, to have a look at a script.
He wrote a script with the toilet that we hadn’t been able to use in Reader’s Digest.
He had a little white child drinking out of it and a VO saying, “If it’s not okay for a white child to drink out of a toilet, how come it’s okay for a black child?”
Little Jim said he wanted Bob Hoskins for the VO.
I said okay.
He said that we had no money, and the account men wouldn’t approach Bob Hoskins.
Jim said he didn’t know what to do.
So I gave him a copy of George Lois’s book “The Art of Advertising”.
That night Little Jim took it home and read it.
The next morning he came in and got on the phone.
By the end of the day he’d found out Bob Hoskins’ agent’s number.
He’d talked him into giving him Bob Hoskins’ private number.
And he’d talked Bob Hoskins into doing the VO.
He’d been so inspired by the stories of how George Lois did the seemingly impossible, that he saw he could do it.
“The Art of Advertising” by George Lois, is a book I’ve always recommended to every creative.
If you only read one book about advertising, read this.
Not all of the ads are good.
Many are plain corny by today’s standards.
But what is great, and truly inspiring, is the thinking.
The stories about how he did some absolutely outrageous work, and how he got it to run, are amazing.
He makes you see what a tiny little corner today’s creatives have painted themselves into.
The book is out of print, you can’t buy it anymore.
Maybe you can get a used copy on Amazon or eBay.
If you care enough about your career, you’ll read every word in it.
If you’re truly creative, you’ll find a way to get hold of a copy.