My big sister is 11 years older than me.
She went to live in New York when I was 15.
She took to it like a duck to water.
It’s a town where you don’t ask permission.
New York is tough, but so is my sister.
One night, several years ago, she was walking home from her office when she felt a tug at her bag on her shoulder.
It was a guy on a bicycle making a grab for it.
He was big guy: early twenties about 6 foot tall.
He grabbed her bag and pedalled away fast.
As he did, she grabbed his wrist with both hands.
She yanked him off his bike but, at that moment, her heel broke.
She stumbled and let go, and he cycled off.
She took her shoes off and ran after him
In her bare feet he couldn’t hear her coming.
Until he looked round and saw her just as she was about to grab him.
He pedalled like crazy, trying to get away up Second Avenue.
She jumped into the street in front of a cab.
It screeched to a stop and she jumped in next to the driver.
She said, “Follow that cyclist.”
The driver said, “Lady, I can’t do that.”
She yelled, “FOLLOW THE GODDAMN BIKE.”
The cab driver knew he had a crazy woman next to him.
So he followed the bike.
Eventually they came to a red.
The bike went through, the cab stopped.
He wouldn’t go through a red.
My sister got out of the cab and ran back to her apartment on the upper East Side.
She changed out of her office clothes.
She put on tracksuit bottoms, a T-shirt, and Nikes.
She took down a baseball bat and went back in the street, uptown looking for the guy who robbed her.
She walked down every alley she could find where she’d last seen him.
Around midnight, a police patrol car pulled up as she came out of an alley.
The cop lowered his window and said, “Lady, we’ve had some reports about you prowling around here with a baseball bat.
You wanna tell me what’s going on?”
In her poshest English accent my sister said, “Certainly officer, if you want to tell me where the fuck you were when I got mugged two hours ago.”
The cop nodded slowly, raised his window and drove off.
That’s why I love New York.
No wonder the best advertising comes from a town like that.
It’s a tough, no bullshit, town, it needs tough, no bullshit, advertising.
The general lack of arty-fartiness, means you can do advertising that has real power.
Not just pretty little pieces of film.
Muscular advertising that gets into the language instead of just getting into D&AD or Cannes.
Imagine a product that killed cockroaches being launched in England.
It would probably be called something like ‘Roachgon’.
And the strapline would be something like, “The humane way to get rid of unwanted guests”.
Just to make sure no one has to feel bad about killing insects.
In New York that product actually exists.
It’s a little box that traps cockroaches inside.
Then, when it’s full, you throw it in the garbage.
It’s called “ROACH MOTEL”.
And the strapline is, “Roaches check in. But they don’t check out”.
You can laugh at them while you’re killing them.
Instead of pretending to be humane.
You can be honest, instead of being ashamed of what you’re doing and pretending it’s something else.
And that’s why the best advertising still comes from New York.