My best friend at school was Nick Dickenson. We played rugby together, shared girlfriends and hung out listening to Elvis, The Beatles and the Stones. His dad, Ronnie, was the coolest of all the dads. He drove one of those Volvo sports cars made famous by Roger Moore in The Saint that looked like a Space Shuttle with fins (before the Shuttle had even been invented). It was red.
He was the D in CDP, three letters that came to symbolise the magic that emerged from the elixir of creative inspiration and meticulous craft. Collett Dickenson Pearce revolutionised the UK (and ultimately the global) ad industry as manifested by the fact that the agency won more D&AD Awards than any other agency.
Why is the emergence of CDP in the late 1960s, at about the same time Campaign was born, so significant from a historical perspective and how can we still learn from its success today? Let me give you my perspective as a graduate trainee, who started at Lintas a year after the birth of Campaign in 1968.
I recall my chagrin when I saw June Whitfield explain how and why Birds Eye chicken pie had made a dishonest woman of her
Lintas (Lever International Advertising Service) was still 51% owned by Unilever and was suffering from the understandable but unjustifiable inferiority complex that came from being dominated by Unilever brands and lacking of opportunity to handle non-Unilever business.
It was a good agency and a great place to learn, but I recall my chagrin when I first saw June Whitfield explain how and why Birds Eye chicken pie had made a dishonest woman of her (a CDP commercial). The raised eyebrow of her dog-collared husband when, in response to her dinner guests’ praise, she claimed that the pastry was her own recipe, spoke a thousand words.
At the same time, the Lintas campaign for Birds Eye featured an oversized garden pea, somewhat unimaginatively referred to as "Cannonball", whose girth prohibited the poor thing from making it through the narrow mesh through which all peas had to pass to make it into a pack of Birds Eye frozen peas.
"Dishonest woman" or "Cannonball"? You choose. The comparison between CDP and Lintas (for which read: the rest of the industry) is only rendered more stark because the ads were for the same client at the same time.
This experience had a profound effect on me at the start of my career. It taught me the importance of an idea and of engaging with your audience from the first second, with a story they understood, with which they could identify and that brought a smile to their faces (or, just as powerfully, a tear).
It taught me the power of building an affection for the brand and how this could best be measured in loyalty and long-term sales.
The CDP Collection is one of the treasures of the History of Advertising Trust. HAT preserves the past to inspire the future. Even in a commercial world so different from that of 50 years ago, the lessons from CDP’s archive remain as powerful as ever. You need an idea with impact that engages with your audience and a story with which they can empathise.
And maybe the error of the current obsession with the customer journey and data analytics at the expense of building long-term affection can best be learned from revisiting the CDP archive.
Graham Hinton was a graduate trainee at Lintas in 1968; he is now a trustee of HAT (of which he is also a former chairman), and the chairman of Splash Worldwide