Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Brutality or generosity?

The celebrations for 40 years of Saatchi are underway, with a well-publicised do at the Saatchi Gallery last Thursday. It has to be said that Saatchi is a phenomenon - and I am still proud to have been a part of it.

I joined Saatchis in London in 1988, which was somewhere near the peak of their success. I learned a lot, much of which stays with me today. Saatchis were always good at getting ideas to stick in people's minds.

I suppose most of what stuck can be filed under Jeremy Sinclair's idea of "brutal simplicity of thought" which underpinned the notion of a Singled Minded Proposition and of only presenting one creative idea. I remember a short film - "Hold fast to the original idea. Do not give in to the pressures of the moment." In those days, if the one creative idea was seriously shot down in flames by the client, it was a case of "Rip it up and start again" - or even dropping the client!

I don't see so much of that these days. There are tissue meetings all over the place, pre-tissue meetings, chemistry-tissue meetings, re-briefings and God knows what. There's a lot of cut n' paste and incremental tweaking, and bolting on of this mandatory and that. Many would argue that the world has moved on. It's become more complex. "Consumers" have become more "empowered" or "savvy". Generosity, not brutality is the order of the day.

But when I look back at the way Saatchis worked in the 80s, I do wonder. Was it arrogance, or positive self-belief? Was it inflexibility or was it having the courage of your convictions? Brutal simplicity of thought can also lead to beautifully timeless, highly emotional work - "Real Fires", "Lanson" and "Intercity Relax" were three TV spots of the time that are as fresh in my mind now as then.

Times have changed. Now that we have had a real pregnant man, the poster above loses some of its shock value. In the words of the Kinks, it's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world. Which is why, I believe, brutal simplicity of thought - and I am not talking messages or propositions here - is our main hope against wooly, vague and indecisive thinking in communications.

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