Summer book review: That sh*t will never sell by David Gluckman

Summer book review: That sh*t will never sell by David Gluckman


6/10

Independently published. Reviewed by Juliet Haygarth, CEO, BMB


The focus of David Gluckman’s rather catchily titled book is the story of how Baileys was developed and launched in the early 1970s – by Gluckman, who started life as an advertising account exec, and his creative partner Hugh Seymour-Davies.

When the initial consumer research on Baileys showed that it was pretty much universally disliked the response was to keep the inconvenient report in the briefcase and never to present it to the client, who had only briefed Gluckman that they wanted to launch a new Irish alcohol brand. A brief meeting, a long boozy lunch to seal the deal and the rest is history. Baileys was launched, contrary to almost every bit of data that existed. A consultant or agency in today’s climate would never, ever be able to get away with this. 

Once the Baileys tale is told, the rest of the book is a whistle-stop tour through the last 30 years of the drinks industry 

But maybe there is nothing wrong with a reminder of the difference pure instinct, years of experience and a good old-fashioned idea can make when you are trying to disrupt the market.

Today, advertising is a business increasingly led by data. Clients and agencies are afraid to act unless backed up by reams of information justifying every decision we take. The need to keep data and creativity in balance, working in harmony, not one as a slave to the other, is more relevant in 2017 than it was in 1973.

Once the Baileys tale is told, the rest of the book is a whistle-stop tour through the past 30 years of the drinks industry. For anyone starting out at Diageo or working on an alcohol account in an agency, this book would serve as a perfect introduction. For me, it all began to merge into one after a while, more useful as a reference tool than as a book to be read in a couple of sittings.

A lot of the stories come from a time when business was conducted on golf courses and over long lunches. The word lavish is mentioned a lot, along with schmoozing, wines of a certain vintage, velvet jackets and references to game butchers. Just one quote will give you the general gist:

"God, I could murder a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. You can only do this haute cuisine thing for so long."

Now, I don’t know about you, but this isn’t a problem I find myself facing in today’s industry. I’m overly familiar with a Pret sandwich at my desk and a world away from a regular table at The Ivy. It made me wonder whether I’d take anything from this book, or whether the learnings, like the lifestyle belonged in a different era.

In the end, what I took out of this book wasn’t factual, but emotional. It’s a reminder that our business is a team game and we’re lucky to be surrounded by a whole host of talented, amusing people. That credit should go to clients brave enough to buy innovative ideas, as well as designers who exceed their briefs and surprise and delight you.

I get the impression that Gluckman would be a very charming lunching companion. You’d just need a free afternoon and a hefty expenses budget to enjoy it.

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