A view from Dave Trott: Catenaccio advertising
A view from Dave Trott

Catenaccio advertising

Italy has a reputation for great defenders.

This stems from teams like Milan. In the 1960s and 70s Milan won the Serie A twice, the Coppa Italia three times, the European Cup twice, the Cup Winners’ Cup twice, and the Club World Cup.

Milan’s game was based on the Italian defensive system called Catenaccio.

Catenaccio means door-bolt, the “door-bolt” being a free-ranging defender behind the team.

Italy was the first to understand that if no-one scores against you, you can’t lose.

More recently, Pep Guardiola has won nine titles at the clubs he’s managed – Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City – and each club had the best defensive record in its league.

As Guardiola says: “For us to concede a goal the opponent must have the ball, so the less they have the ball the better. After that we can talk about what we do with it.”

Basically, the amateur thinks about the glory of scoring and winning, the professional knows not losing is the most crucial.

Warren Buffett is one of the richest investors in the world, worth $127bn.

He said: “An investor needs to do very few things right, just don’t make any big mistakes.”

His partner, Charlie Munger said: “It’s remarkable how much long-term advantage we’ve gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”

In 1815, Waterloo was a battle between a general who was a genius at attacking and a general who was brilliant at defending – we know how that turned out.

Ad agencies don’t get this, they always promise campaigns that produce huge wins.

But let’s look at the facts: £20bn is spent on all forms of advertising in the UK.

Four per cent is remembered positively; 7% is remembered negatively; 89% is not noticed or remembered.

That’s £18bn of advertising that can’t even get noticed or remembered; most advertising fails because people ignore the basics.

That’s what Buffet and Munger are talking about, that’s what most people get wrong.

We are frightened to fall behind what everyone else is doing, so we ignore the basics and concentrate on the latest fashion.

So what are the basics that we’re ignoring?

Well, if 89% of advertising isn’t noticed or remembered, let’s start from there.

Any communication must have three things: it must have impact, it must communicate, and it must persuade.

£18bn falls at that first hurdle, it isn’t noticed or remembered because it’s all the same.

So it all becomes one long identical piece of wallpaper.

So the first, most basic rule is be different to what’s around you, or you won’t have impact.

The second hurdle advertising falls at is communication.

Try it yourself, after an ad break is over pick one of the ads and ask the person with you if they can explain what it was about.

Odds are they can’t because the agency was trying to make the ad esoteric.

So now we have ads that people don’t notice, designed not to be understood by the masses, what chance do we have of even getting to the third hurdle: persuasion?

Our advertising fails the basics because we are only interested in the complicated stuff.

That’s what Buffet and Munger are talking about.

By concentrating on the basics, they’ve made billions while people who are determined to be clever have lost everything.

So we have to ask ourselves, who’s really stupid and who’s really clever?

Dave Trott is the author of The Power of Ignorance, Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three

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