Barclaycard was the forerunner of Visa.

Years ago CDP did a campaign for Barclaycard, with Alan Whicker.

He was the Michael Palin of his day, a world traveler.

Which made him an appropriate vehicle to say ‘accepted everywhere’.

Everyone who remembers the campaign, remembers him saying “Barclaycard is accepted at 6 times more places than Access”.

The campaign was really successful.

Everyone wanted a Barclaycard, because it was more accepted.

So more people applied for Barclaycard than Access.

There were only two problems with this.

One, it wasn’t true.

Two, he didn’t say it.

Barclaycard was backed by Visa.

Access, was backed by MasterCard.

Both were accepted at almost exactly the same number of outlets.

What Alan Whicker actually said was “Barclaycard is accepted at 6 times more places than….certain cards I could mention”.

The public knew Barclaycard’s main competitor was Access.

So they heard him putting down Access.

The truth is Barclaycard only managed to get the campaign on air by telling the authorities it referred to American Express.

Who really were accepted at 6 times fewer places.

But all the subtleties and details that we get involved in don’t interest the public.

So they don’t hear it.

Once we understand this we can be much more effective.

British Airways was a similar case.

When Saatchi’s had the account, everyone remembers the campaign saying “British Airways is the world’s biggest airline”.

And a lot of people flew BA, because they felt safer flying with the world’s biggest airline.

But again, BA didn’t say that.

Because they couldn’t.

British Airways was the fifth biggest airline in the world.

United, American, Delta, and Aeroflot were all bigger.

But Saatchi told the authorities, BA flew more international routes than any of those airlines.

So the others might be either America’s or Russia’s favourite airlines.

But BA was provably the world’s favourite airline.

So what Saatchi’s actually said was “British Airways is the world’s favourite airline.”

Which, Saatchi’s knew, everyone would hear as ‘British Airways is the world’s biggest airline’.

Saatchi was equally smart with Castlemaine.

Everyone remembers the advertising as saying “Australians wouldn’t give a Castlemaine XXXX for any other lager”.

Again, they couldn’t say that, it wasn’t true.

Fosters outsold Castlemaine in some states in Australia.

So what they actually said was “Australians wouldn’t give a Castlemaine XXXX for anything else”.

Justifying it to the authorities as not being about XXXX versus  Fosters.

But instead being about Aussies preferring beer to absolutely anything: women, friends, money, personal safety.

But consumers heard the more obvious message.

And Fosters lost a lot of sales to Castlemaine because of it.

You see, we all sit in meetings and discuss everything in forensic detail.

Like lawyers.

We argue every single nuance, and possible interpretation, and dictionary definition, and dot and comma.

But the punters don’t do that.

They see it and it’s gone.

In a flash.

And what sticks, sticks.

And what doesn’t, doesn’t.

And if we understand the difference, we can do our job more effectively.

One time I was walking down Berwick Street in Soho.

A market trader was selling jars of honey from his stall.

He was yelling out “Don’t forget the honey, Mummy”.

He was shouting it because it was the famous line from the Sugar Puffs advertising.

Except it wasn’t.

John Webster’s actual line was The Honey Monster constantly saying to Henry McGhee: “Tell them about the honey, Mummy”.

But it didn’t matter.

The market trader was using what he thought was John’s line because the advertising was so successful.

And because that’s the way everyone remembered it.

And John would have loved that.

It doesn’t matter how they remember it, just so long as they remember it.


As my dad used to say “I don’t care what you call me, as long as you don’t call me late for dinner.”