So, last week Glen and I jumped on the train and headed to London for the evening to attend our first Contagious Live London event.

It was a packed house of 200 creative professionals, congregated perhaps in part for the beer and pizza, but predominantly for the live interview with legendary creative director, copywriter, and author, Dave Trott. Before the main event, we were taken through a selection of international behavioural change campaigns that had caught the eye of the Contagious team over the past few months.

The Greggs vegan sausage roll obviously made an appearance, and rightly so. An Apple style launch to journalists and a ranty tweet from Piers Morgan was all that was needed to dominate the media and cement the conversation (and it’s also a pretty impressive meat alternative). Greggs has seen a significant increase in sales with a demographic that would have previously avoided the cheap and cheerful bakery.

Of these examples, the campaign that got the biggest reaction from the room was created by Ogilvy for AeroMexico to encourage tourism from America to Mexico. Ogilvy engineered a campaign whose video featured representatives from AeroMexico interviewing some residents of Wharton, Texas, on their opinions about Mexico. They knew a significant proportion of people there would have Mexican ancestry but be unaware of the fact. They also knew many of these people would have no desire to travel to Mexico. They DNA tested each of them and offered discounted flights to Mexico based on their percentage of Mexican DNA. The humour of the campaign sent it viral and presented an intriguing way to change perceptions.



Then it was time for the Dave Trott masterclass, where he sat in front of us and told us all to be better! His take on the current state of the industry seems to be driven by his clear distaste for formal education and agencies who focus more on awards than people.

He referenced each of the presented examples of behaviour change and asked the room:

“Did anyone see any f**king ads?”

And I suppose he had a point, nothing we had just seen was what you would traditionally call an ad – product, brand and strapline. They weren’t obviously trying to sell us anything, and to be honest I couldn’t remember all of the brands that the films had been for, but I had enjoyed them all and I would have shared them. Is that enough? The world of advertising has changed a fair bit in the last 40 years, it is still all about people, but the way people consume media has changed dramatically.

I couldn’t help but think that his point of view was edging towards the nostalgic, back to a time when social media didn’t exist and markets weren’t so saturated. Now, we have to find ways to communicate our message in a very noisy world, and if that involves winding up Piers Morgan or creating amusing shareable content, is that a bad thing? At the end of the day, if it fulfils the core objective ‘Sell more of our product’, then it worked, didn’t it?

As creatives, we all dream of having an idea that becomes part of people’s lives, ‘part of the language’ as Dave would say. A memorable line that will last a lifetime like these classics:

  • Just Do It (1987)
  • Beanz Meanz Heinz (1967)
  • Ah! Bisto (1919)
  • Does exactly what it says on the tin (1994)
  • Think different (1990)

The list of memorable lines is endless and without brand names you still know exactly what these lines are for. But look at the dates, it seems very few lines are entering the language now, and if they do it’s done with budgets unattainable for most businesses. I had thought McDonald’s ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ would be an example of a more recent line, but even that turns out to have been launched in 2003, proving that it takes a long time for these lines to take a real hold.

I guess what i’m saying is, I understand where Trott is coming from, but the world we are creating for today is a throw away one. They say on average we can be exposed to around 5,000 ads per day, so we barely give any of them more than a fleeting moment of our attention. It’s our job to create the one people remember and although I may not agree with all of his points, Trott gave us some really great reminders that would contribute to the goal:

  • Keep things simple
  • Make your message clear
  • Focus on people and to talk to them in their own language
  • Form should always follow function
  • Advertise your point of difference, not your market

and finally…

Don’t join the Navy, be a Pirate!