When George Lucas was a young director he had a vision for a different sort of science fiction movie.
He didn’t think the future was going to be clean and new and shiny, the way it always was in science fiction films.
He thought it could be messy, and haphazard, and much more interesting.
He wanted to mix several genres.
He wanted some of the space ships to be held together with string and sellotape.
He wanted the villain to be a military dictator, like Stalin or Hitler.
He wanted the hero to be more of a modern day pirate.
He wanted people from different worlds to be like nothing we’d seen before.
Not just humans with capes and different haircuts.
He wanted the fights between spaceships to be more like dogfights.
Generally he wanted a film that was bigger than the conventional science fiction genre.
So, when he’d shot most of it, he called his friends in to see it.
He said, “I haven’t been able to shoot the fights between the space ships yet. So I’ve cut in footage of old airplane dogfights.”
Then he rolled the movie.
When it was finished, a lot of his friends were stunned.
And not in a good way.
They’d never seen anything like it before, they didn’t know what to make of it.
Only one, Steven Spielberg said it was fresh and new and exciting.
George Lucas carried on with the movie, but doubt set in.
And after he’d finished it, he was sure he had a huge flop on his hands.
So he went on holiday to the Caribbean to escape the flak and ridicule.
While he was there he met up with Steven Spielberg.
Spielberg said it was going to be great.
Lucas was so embarrassed he didn’t even want to talk about it.
But by the time he got back to the states, it had been a massive success, and he was a star.
The same thing happened years before to Helmut Krone.
In the early 60s, he was doing the first Volkswagen campaign at DDB.
Normally car ads had colourful drawings making the car look sleeker.
And a perfect-looking family admiring their new car.
With everything looking sunny, and happy, and wonderful.
Krone’s ads were stark black and white photographs making the car look small and ordinary.
One said, ‘THINK SMALL’.
The other said, ‘LEMON’.
So the ads basically said the car was small and boring and some of them had faults.
But they also said they were reliable and very carefully inspected.
The take-out was that these were ads for people who weren’t fooled by corny old-fashioned advertising.
So this was the car was for people who were smarter.
That was why Bill Bernbach wanted to run them.
But Krone had doubts.
These ads went against all conventional wisdom in car advertising.
In fact in any advertising.
Krone was convinced they were going to be a huge flop.
So he went on holiday to the Caribbean, to escape the ridicule.
While he was down there the ads ran, and they changed advertising.
Helmut Krone said, “I went to the Caribbean to escape the embarrassment when they ran. And when I came back I was a star.”
That campaign is consistently voted the best advertising campaign ever.
The lesson is, the person who does the ad, or the movie, doesn’t always know what they’ve done.
The person doing it can’t be the person judging it.
I learned that from John Webster and Paul Arden.
Sometimes I’d say something, and they’d say, “That’s great, let’s do that.”
And I’d say, “Do what?”
And they’d say, “What you just said.”
And I’d say, “What did I just say?”
That’s why Bernbach put two people, a writer and an art director, together in the first place.
That’s why we all need a partner.
But I think we can go further than that.
I think we are half the equation, but we don’t necessarily need a permanent partner to be the other half.
At least, not an all-time, regular, permanent partner.
I think the other 50% of the equation can be wherever you find it.
If you are the one who’s listening, you can listen to everyone and everything.
Different people at different times.
That makes you half the equation, and the world the other half.
So everyone is your partner.
Because great advertising has to consist of two elements.
A great idea.
And someone to spot it.
So, you don’t have to have to worry about always having great ideas.
You can concentrate on spotting them.
You can take inspiration from everywhere, because you are the one who spots it.
Unless you spot it, it won’t happen.
Bill Bernbach used to say, “It’s my job to go through Helmut Krone’s waste paper basket.”