My son used to go to a school for nice, intelligent, middle-class boys.
All approaching puberty.
One day we had one of those conversations that sons and dads have.
It was a similar situation to the one The Who sing about in “Pictures Of Lilly”.
So, I went into the office and asked Yvonne, my PA, if she could pop over to the newsagent.
I said I needed copies of Playboy, Men Only, Hustler, and anything else she could find on the top shelf.
Yvonne asked why I couldn’t go and get them myself.
It was a fair question.
The truth is our offices were in Soho.
And I didn’t want to join all the other blokes leafing through porn mags.
So Yvonne, being a good sport, eventually went and got them for me.
I took them home and gave them to my son.
I said, “Put these where Mum, Grandma, or Carol (the cleaning lady) can’t find them.”
And that was that.
A month or so later I got a package in the post.
I opened it up and it was all the porn mags.
Plus a letter from my son’s headmaster.
It said, “One of our teachers saw a large crowd of boys in the playground, gathered around your son.
Upon approaching them he discovered your son was showing the boys the pictures in these magazines.
He asked your son where he acquired them and your son told him they were yours.
Magazines like these are not allowed in school, so we thought you might like to have them back.”
To get himself out of trouble, my own son’s grassed me up.
Now what happens on next parent’s day?
Every teacher will think I’ve got a massive stash of porn mags at home.
I avoided the embarrassment of buying the mags, but this is now much worse.
It’s the equivalent of the argument I always have with Gordon.
About whether we should show our ads to anyone else or not.
Gordon is an art director, so he doesn’t trust anyone.
He wouldn’t even show the ads to me if he had the choice.
He just wants to run the ads before anyone can interfere with them.
I feel the other way.
I want to show the ads to everyone before they run.
That way, if there are any problems, we’ll know about them.
And we can fix them.
We can have all the arguments internally.
If there’s a mistake or problem, we’ll find out before the ad runs.
That’s got to be better than finding it’s wrong after the ad’s run, and everyone outside the agency has seen it.
Then it’s too late to do anything about it.
Then it really is embarrassing.
That’s why I think it makes sense to ask everyone else about your ads.
From the office cleaner upward.
With one proviso.
Everyone who doesn’t work on the account.
Planners, account men, production, studio, media, secretaries.
Anyone who doesn’t know the brief.
So they don’t know what the ad’s supposed to say.
They can judge it like the man, or woman, in the street.
They judge whether they’d stop and look at it, whether they’d remember it, whether it’s interesting.
The account man, or planner, who wrote the brief can’t judge that.
They’re too involved.
They know what the brief says, so they’re looking for that.
They’re not looking for impact, involvement, memorability.
So they can’t judge the ad from the consumer’s POV.
There’s another great thing about asking people who don’t work on the account what they think of your ads.
You don’t have to listen to them.
Unless you think they’re right.
You haven’t got that option with the people who work on the account.
If they’ve got an opinion they’re going to fight for it.
So I always ask people who don’t know the brief.
Then I can decide what to do.
I want that information, so I’ve got the option.
I’d much rather be embarrassed inside the agency than outside.