I worried about The Economist.
It was an open brief, which meant the whole AMV/BBDO creative department would work on through the year, in downtime, lunch hours and weekends, depending on hunger levels.
This had been going on for about ten years.
When I was Creative Director on the account, on average, for every ad I’d approve, fifteen would be rejected; there were twenty something creative teams.
So, with four bursts of ten posters every year for ten years and a few one-offs and specials thrown in, I’d say that about a thousand executions had run and about fifteen thousand concepts had been created.
But my main worry was whether they had lost an element of freshness to the public.
Awards were certainly down. No campaign continues to win as much once it becomes very familiar.
Here are a few of the 48 sheets Sean and I did at the time.
One day, whilst driving home, I spotted a big red poster in the distance, I couldn’t tell for quite a while whether it was one that Sean and I had done.
It got me thinking, the format is unbelievably well branded, but ten years on, do civilians approach the posters in a similar way? Thinking “Oh…there’s one of those red Economist posters, I’m sure it’s saying something witty about intelligence, but I can’t be arsed to read it.”
In a nutshell: Were they getting too predictable?
I thought the colour and font were so distinctive we could try and add an element of surprise and freshness by producing a mini campaign every quarter, that continued with the same messages but had a slightly different graphic look.
I thought it’d be a great variant on the red look, and different, but a clever structure to write to.
I had a go at writing some.
It was a like a Mensa Test: One circle is red and says: “Reads The Economist”,
the blue circle says something else that’s clever, and the bit at the bottom says
something that is the summation of this that is both clever AND funny.
I couldn’t do it.
I just couldn’t unlock the formula.
I explained it to Sean.
He rattled off a load:
Once he’d unlocked the formula, I started start writing them too.
We loosened up a bit and started swearing.
But as the scamp below indicates, were still to discover the spellcheck filter.
They were sold, bought and art-worked.
Then, C.E.O Andrew Robertson came in: “I can’t do it, The Red campaign was David Abbott’s gift to the agency.”
It was decided we should run them along side the familiar red ads.
They worked well as cross-track posters, people could get the structure, then see how it played out, whilst waiting for their delayed train.
These ideas were bought, proofed and cromalined.
They got pulled at the last minute for various reasons.
REASON: You can probably guess. (It’s surprising it got so close to running, it’s funny though.)
REASON: It’s a bit weird. (Although one of my favourites.)
REASON: It mentions a brand name.
REASON: It’s a bit childish, although it does use a lot of long words.
A whole bunch of rejects were ganged up as a possible cross track, but didn’t happen.
The following year, posters in the red style were deemed sufficiently fresh to win a D&AD pencil ( “Jigsaw”) and a Campaign Posters Gold (“Long Copy”).
So perhaps Andrew was right, it was ‘David Abbott’s gift’.