Way back in the early 1990s, PHD was one of five media companies invited to pitch for the Polaroid camera business.
Its brief was very conventional, focusing on the usual preselected channels and phasing/costing of activity. Creativity was left in the advertising agency’s remit, and the account director from Bainsfair Sharkey Trott would be present to ensure that was the case.
David [Pattison], Nick [Horswell] and I were angered by the brief’s lack of ambition. We had launched PHD to make a difference, to harness new creative possibilities to benefit our clients. So, we told them straight.
David played the bad cop and, luckily for me, I was cast as the good cop. David began the presentation by telling Polaroid that its cameras were "inferior rubbish", if judged alongside a Canon or Pentax. He then pointed out that its revenue was entirely drawn from the exorbitant price of its film cartridges. That was also crap. Inflicting expensive replacement film was equivalent to blackmail and wasn’t sustainable.
The clients were outraged. They turned to each other in a way that indicated they wanted to leave the room immediately. At which point, I delivered them the good news: "Polaroid is not in the camera business, nor the film business. You are in the instant gratification business."
The clients turned to each other in a way that indicated they wanted to leave the room immediately. At which point, I delivered them the good news: 'Polaroid is not in the camera business, nor the film business. You are in the instant gratification business'
Intrigued, they slowly sat down. We went on to reveal a new show, as yet unaired, with a largely unknown host: Chris Evans and Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. A format of relentless, spontaneous, priceless live moments, encapsulating the spirit of instant gratification for Polaroid.
We had already secured the sponsorship for this Saturday night, as yet unproven, jewel. And we suggested placing cameras at major events for the guests to take shots of each other having fun. We would publish the best in magazines such as OK!.
Arguably we invented the selfie before mobiles even existed. And then there was instant out-of-home, and so much more&hellip
There was no need for any bespoke commercials from BST, but its account director took us aside afterwards and said he didn’t care – it was the best pitch he had ever witnessed.
We were awarded the business inside an hour of the presentation. That gave PHD the confidence to always say what we thought. To offer our advice without double-guessing what the client wanted to hear or what the competition might be doing. Polaroid was more than instant gratification for us. It gave us balls.
Jonathan Durden is the co-founder of PHD Relentless