One of the first campaigns I ever did was for Pepsi.
The first commercial featured a guy trying to chat up a girl who only speaks Swedish.
As he realizes he’s wasting his time, he turns to camera and raises his eyebrows.
I thought this should have been quite subtle.
But, as I was only a junior, I wasn’t invited to be involved with any of the production.
John Webster was not only the creative director, he was also directing the commercials.
So he did all the pre-production, casting, and shooting on his own.
When I saw it, we had a huge row.
Although I was a junior I was upset that everyone, even the account men, had seen the finished commercials before I had.
Probably this put me in a bad mood and made me dislike what he’d shot.
I thought everything was embarrassingly over the top.
The casting, the reaction shots, the acting.
None of it matched what was in my head.
So I refused to have it on my reel.
Until gradually the campaign began to take off.
It turned out John was right, the broad humour worked.
People saw it and laughed, simple as that.
I was the only person judging it against the version that was in my head.
The campaign became massively successful and I quietly put it back on my reel.
A year or so later there was a problem with the Mazola account.
The brief was about the higher temperatures that corn oil cooked at.
These higher temperatures sealed in the flavour of food.
Jane Newman, who was the planner on the account, said we needed a mnemonic.
No one else could come up with one, so to solve a problem I did.
Every vegetable would have its own safe.
Big safes for potatoes, lots of little safes for peas, long thin safes for chips, you get the idea.
I was a bit embarrassed about it, so I didn’t put it on my reel.
Until sales of Mazola began to take off.
And CEOs of ad agencies began trying to find out who came up with the idea.
It was written up in Campaign as a professional solution, “Not so much a creative’s idea as a creative director’s idea.”
They didn’t care that it wouldn’t win any awards.
They were impressed at how quickly it put Mazola firmly on the map
They weren’t comparing it against what was in my head.
I quietly put the campaign back on my reel.
I find this a lot.
If the final film is the same as what’s in our heads, we accept that because we’re comfortable with it.
It’s expected.
But if it’s not what’s in our head, we’re disappointed.
We feel let down.
That’s why it’s worth remembering, we could be wrong.
We have to keep an open mind.
When anyone’s putting a book or reel together, it’s worth remembering that what we have in our head isn’t the be-all and end-all of possibilities.
Because we’re the only ones who know what’s in our head.
And maybe we’re blowing it out of proportion.
Maybe the difference only exists in our heads.
We’re looking at everything under a jeweler’s eyepiece.
To us differences from our original vision are magnified enormously.
But we have to forget what’s in our head.
We have to be able to stand back and judge it as if we’d never even heard the idea before.
And that’s hard to do.
And that’s another thing I learned from John Webster.