Advertising, Marketing Strategy

The Obi-wan that got away…

WA5HHaving worked in marketing and advertising for more that (ahem!) twenty years, it’s rather extraordinary that I only have one real regret.

And it was from the early days, working on Persil at J. Walter Thompson in 1996.

They were after a “new news” vehicle.

This is ad-speak for a campaign structure in which all sorts of splendid new features and formulations can be showcased to increase the perceived dynamism and efficacy of the brand.

Matthew Lloyd and Giles Etherington came up with a really delightful idea in which C3PO, of Star Wars fame, had a new sidekick:

A washing machine.

He was called WA5H (of course).

In the campaign C3PO was his usual panicky, disgruntled self, but constantly beset with washing and laundry problems.

WA5H had a irresponsible, mischievous character – rather like R2D2. But, also – of course – had the appropriate Persil-based solution to all his companion’s detergent dilemmas.

It was a classic “Brand Novice + Brand Expert” construction.

Lever Brothers loved it.

Tom Darby and Lucy Figgis got in touch with LucasFilm, the owners of the rights to all the Star Wars characters.

And Lucas offered us UK advertising rights to C3P0 for £100,000.

(If this seems a lot of money to you, let me put it in context by telling you that shortly afterwards Lever  paid £30K to use “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” tune on another ad, and BT spent ten times as much for the rights to use E.T. in their campaign.)

It was going so well…

Until the consumer research…

Oh dear!

We tested seven or eight animatics (proto-ads)  in focus groups around the country with 35-50 year old Mums (Persil’s so called “heavy users”).

They got all the product messages. They enjoyed the ads and they laughed at the jokes. And they loved the WA5H character.

But then they told us Star Wars seemed a bit old-fashioned and wondered whether we should be using something a bit more up to date.

So Levers shelved the idea. “New News” campaigns have to be “new”, right?

This is despite the fact that “Episode One – The Phantom Menace” the new Star Wars film was already in production and everyone knew that two sequels had already been written.

We were gutted.

And I still am.

So by all means test your campaigns with customers, use research to gauge their reactions to the things you’re proposing.

But for God’s sake don’t ask them for their advice.

Or take it when it’s offered.

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Advertising, Behaviour Change, Behavioural Economics, Equality, Moral Decision Making

Fighting for equality is a job for the many, not the few.

StonewallBuilder

Our new campaign for Stonewall launches this week.

Stonewall are an amazing organisation, sensational campaigners and very nice folk to boot.

They’ve been fighting tirelessly for The rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people since their foundation in 1989.

And they’ve been extremely successful: helping achieve equalisation of the age of consent, lifting the ban on lesbians and gay men serving in the military, securing legislation allowing same sex couples to adopt and the repeal of Section 28, the clause in the Local Government Act designed to prevent the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools. More recently they’ve championed equal partnership rights for gay people under law, recognised first with the civil partnerships bill and then, last year, with the same sex marriage legislation.

All of these hard-won battles are vitally important milestones.

But as any campaigner for racial or gender equality can confirm, there’s a big difference between securing equal rights under law and actually putting an end to prejudice and discrimination.

Sad to say, prejudice seems to be hard wired into all of us and discrimination is very hard to prevent as a consequence, even when we’re trying super hard. (If you think you have your prejudices in check and under control, go to the YourMorals.org website. Trying a few of their online tests for yourself will swiftly relieve you of your illusions.)

Unfortunately we are still very much in the foothills when it come to getting the UK to accept gay people for who they are.

Nearly a million Brits have witnessed physical homophobic bullying at work in the last five years and two and a half times that number have witnessed verbal bullying over the same period.

No wonder a quarter of all gay people still keep completely schtum about their private lives at work.

In sport it’s still practically taboo to be openly gay. That’s why people like Thomas Hitzlsperger (football) Tom Daley (diving) and Gareth Thomas (rugby) should be so roundly applauded when they have the courage to buck the trend.

And you have to ask yourself whether we have the right to be proud of the progress we’re making when we all hear children all over the country (and many others too) using the word “gay” as a pejorative catch-all term for anything a bit rubbish and we nevertheless shrug it off because we know they don’t mean any harm.

Our campaign simply pictures two individuals in the same profession next to a headline that says, “One is gay. if that bothers people, our work continues”.

It draws attention to Stonewall’s continuing mission, in the aftermath of the equal marriage landmark, to help build a society in which we can all be open and confident about who we are, and who we love.

It’s running in the press and on buses and in the tube in London.

Our campaign is an uncontroversial statement of fact, underpinned by the presumption of equality under UK law of all gay and straight people. The literal and legal equivalent of a gender rights action group picturing a male and a female executive under a headline that read, “we’ll carry on campaigning until he no longer earns 20% more than her for doing exactly the same job.”

And yet it still wasn’t easy to get our message heard.

Transport for London are currently having to defend a legal case against a Christian organisation called the Core Issues Trust. This body has been suing TfL for rejecting one of their campaigns, offering religious support to “cure” anyone who has experienced homosexual feelings but feels they may want to reduce, subdue or extinguish them. TfL had judged the campaign offensive (I know!) and successfully defended the case without difficulty, but their very well funded opponents have taken it to the Court of Appeal and that judgement is still “in the oven” at the time of writing.

So TfL were initially rather nervous about accepting a campaign from Stonewall in case anyone deemed it antagonistic. Luckily common sense prevailed.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I think that standing up for the right of people, supposedly equal in law, to be equal in actual life, is actually the responsibility of the many, rather than the few.

Through their pugnacious determination to be accepted for who they are, brave members of the gay community have campaigned and secured their legal right to be treated equally.

It’s now up to us all, gay and straight, to turn legal law into living law.

And to oppose the efforts of other groups wishing to deny gay people legitimacy.

If you agree and you feel you can help, please spread the word and add your voice.

And if you see or hear homophobic bullying, teasing or joshing in your workplace, or in the playground for that matter, try turning that blind eye into a properly civilised glare of disapproval and a few harsh words.

Thank you to Richard Hayter for creating the campaign and to Si Micheli, Rob DeCleyn, Mike Dobrin, Mark Lloyd, Mark Goodwin, Ruth Chapman and Graham Baker for making it all happen.

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