For centuries man tried to fly and failed.
Man tried all sorts of wings: straight wings, curved wings, feathered wings, multi-layered.
Nothing worked until the Wright brothers in 1903, they flew 859 feet in 59 seconds.
So what did the Wright brothers do that was different to everyone else?
They had wings like everyone else, but the wings were different, the wings were warped.
All other wings had been based on the thinking that the air under the wings pushed the wing upwards.
The Wright brothers were the first to understand it was the opposite, the air above the wings sucked the wing upwards. It’s called the Venturi effect.
If you cut a section through the Wright brothers’ wings, you’d see they were warped, not flat like everyone else’s.
This meant that the air moving above the wing had to move faster than the air underneath.
Which meant that the air molecules would be further apart above the wing, so the air would be thinner above the wing and denser below it.
The low density above the wing caused it to get sucked upwards, and the plane would fly.
The same was true of ships, square-rigged ships sailed well with the wind behind them because they were getting pushed along, but they couldn’t sail into the wind.
Fore-and-aft rigged boats could sail much closer into the wind because the leading edge of the sail could cut into the wind and create an area of lower pressure across the front of the sail, so the boat would get sucked along.
Which means the most modern racing yachts can actually go faster than the wind.
So what relevance does this have to us?
The fact that for hundreds of years we’d been blindly following the wrong theory just because that was conventional wisdom.
No one questioned it, until someone questioned it.
I saw this in advertising when I was a youngster at BMP.
We advertised all Courage’s beers, and we were told that the ads always had to feature two or more lads in a pub.
It had always been true that beer drinking was done in pubs and people didn’t just go to a pub for the beer in the glass, they went for the fun, for their mates, for a laugh.
So that was what we were selling.
No one would even look at a script that didn’t feature two or more lads having fun in a pub.
And that’s the way it was for everyone at every agency, right up until CDP did the Heineken campaign.
CDP realised that most of Heineken’s sales were in cans, not on draught, so they weren’t mainly drunk in the pub.
They also realised that a laugh is a laugh, wherever it occurs.
You didn’t have to anchor it in the pub for drinkers to realise it was a beer commercial.
The Heineken campaign line was: “Refreshes the parts other beers can’t reach”.
Once they were freed from the pub they could do commercials about all sorts of things: like policemen’s feet, and piano tuner’s ears.
Once they were freed from the pub they could go even back in history: Roman galley-slaves, and Nero’s thumb.
They could do posters featuring quirky celebrities: Mr Spock’s ears, and Joe Jordan’s teeth.
That campaign broke the mould for beer advertising, it ran for decades and lots of subsequent advertising campaigns copied it.
And all because they stopped following the obvious, accepted, conventional wisdom and did the opposite.
They questioned something that couldn’t be questioned.
Which is where all great creative leaps come from.