Thursday, 1 September 2016

Creating Cuddly Commercials

I'm currently reading a book with the intriguing title 98% Pure Potato , which is a history of the origins of Account Planning through interviews with its pioneers - the early planners in the agencies JWT and BMP in London in the late 60s and 70s.

So far, it's a fascinating, if rather wordy, glimpse into the past, with plenty of quotes from those who were there. I started my career in the 80s, so many of these people were known to me, by reputation if not personally.

One theme that comes out strongly in the book is the belief that those early planners had that advertising should connect, human to human. This is described by Leslie Butterfield as follows: It was a kind of 'cuddle up to you' model of how advertising works and I think that advertising was something that could win people over through affection, through charm, through nudging, through cuddling ... put your arm around the consumer, entertain them, involve them, engage them, persuade them, but do it gently, do it with charm, do it with panache, not a bang over the head.

I sometimes think that as advertisers, we have forgotten this. Our attachment to data means that we've become detached from the human side. The early planners crunched plenty of data, but they also talked with and listened to hundreds of people in sitting rooms over sandwiches, biscuits and cups of tea - or even wine in the evenings. In a flood of nostalgia, I dragged out one of the first contacts I had with advertising as a potential career, in the form of the Oxford & Cambridge Careers Guide - this is from the early 80s.

I remember clearly reading the piece by another Lesley - female this time - Lesley Nevard, who was an Account Planner at BMP. What is fascinating to read here is this, unlike the book, is not coloured by decades of hindsight - this is as it was back then.

I hope it's readable - it definitely inspired me in my career choice. I do wonder what Lesley Nevard is doing now.


Barbara said...

Hi Sue, for me Leslie Butterfield got it right. I remember the cuddly and/or fun adverts but have no engagement with the others. When they are on so is the kettle! If all adverts were entertaining there would be a lot less tea drunk here.
I did attempt to read all Lesley Nevard had to say but found it difficult to read the second/third page. When I clicked on the first and fourth pages, they were easily readable but not so the other two – but then I’m ancient, and my eyesight is not good. ;-)

Sue Imgrund said...

Of course, there are still advertisers who employ the 'cuddly' approach - particularly noticeable around Christmas time with John Lewis et al.

Thanks for your comment - and sorry about the illegibility!