When Bill Shankley managed Liverpool he had a very gifted young striker playing for him.

His young star worked hard, trained hard, and studied the game.

In one particular high-pressure match he found himself with the ball at his feet and only the goalkeeper to beat.

He thought about everything he’d learned.

Should he wrong-foot the keeper and go round him?

Should he bend the ball around the keeper into the top corner?

Should he try a power shot and hope the keeper can’t hold it?

Should he hold up the ball so he could lay it off to someone in a better position?

While he hesitated a defender took the ball off him and booted it upfield to the other end of the pitch.

When the young striker eventually came off the pitch, Shankley asked him what had  happened.

The striker said he’d been trying to pick his best option.

Shankley said, “Look son, if you ever find yourself with the ball at your feet and just the goalie to beat, stick it in the net and we’ll discuss all your options afterwards.”

I often think advertising is like that.

We’ve got young copywriters and art director getting confused by concentrating on complicated things that aren’t their job.

So they can’t do the simple job they should be doing.

Instead they spend all their time thinking about brand theory, new media, cultural memes, and social latency.

Now maybe brand theory and the all rest has some relevance for planners.

But that’s their role in the team, not ours.

It’s our job to stick the ball in the net.

And that’s simple, or it’s nothing.

Let’s look at how it breaks down.

To be successful, all advertising has to fulfil 3 simple criteria.

  • 1) IMPACT


If there is no IMPACT no one notices it, and nothing happens.

(And the numbers say 90% of advertising doesn’t get noticed.)

So that’s the single biggest job for any creative: get noticed before we do anything else.

Assuming we get noticed, the next job is COMMUNICATION.

Our ad has a lot better chance of working if people can understand what it’s about.

We’re not talking about winning awards for whacky-zany ads that no one understands here.

We’re talking about effective advertising.

So let’s assume our ad is impactful enough to be in the 10% that actually gets noticed.

And it communicates so everyone can at least understand it.

The final step is PERSUASION.

The reasons people might actually want to buy what we want to sell.

Is it brand, or product performance, or distribution, or price or what?

This is where that conversation belongs.

After we’ve done IMPACT, after we’ve got noticed, after we’re on the radar.

Not before.

Three of my heroes: Ron Greenwood, Brian Clough, and Bill Bernbach all said the same thing.

“Simplicity is genius.”

This is demonstrated by the difference between two football managers.

When Glenn Hoddle was England manager, the team were winning and Hoddle decided to change the formation.

The TV camera showed him in the dugout, briefing the substitute with pages and pages of notes and diagrams.

The substitute came on, tried to explain to the team in detail what Hoddle had said, and confused everyone so much that England lost.

In one of Harry Redknapp’s first games as manager of Spurs, the team were losing.

Harry decided to make a substitution.

The player was from Eastern Europe and couldn’t speak English.

So Harry had to keep it simple.

He said to the interpreter, “Tell him to go on the pitch and run about a bit.”

The player did just that.

He totally unsettled the opposition’s defence with his runs and movement off the ball, and Spurs won.

When we started GGT we ran a press ad about our new agency.

There was a paragraph in it that summed-up the job of creatives.


Word Of Mouth Advertising

“The best advertising you can have is word-of-mouth.

Unfortunately you can’t buy space in this medium at present.

At least not with money.

How you can buy it, is with advertising that gets noticed and talked about.

The more it gets noticed the more it gets talked about.

The more it gets talked about the more it gets noticed.

The amazing thing is, this advertising doesn’t actually cost anymore than advertising that doesn’t get noticed or talked about.”