Monster Worldwide’s chief marketer names the ads and creative work that shaped his career.
Looking back at the ads that nurtured my early interest in brands and communication, I feel lucky to still be around to write this piece for Campaign. Glue, alcohol and tobacco probably aren’t the most wholesome inspirations for a budding young marketing protagonist, but they’re where it all started for me, figuratively speaking.
As all parents know, children have a knack of getting glue stuck in places it’s not supposed to be. This could be why the first commercial I remember talking about at school was the now legendary BDH spot with a 12-stone man, suspended from a helicopter, thanks to the superlative adhesive properties of Solvite wallpaper paste. That ad has stuck with me now for nearly 40 years as an exemplar of the type of communication to which to strive. It boils things down to a simple product truth, elevated through a memorable piece of communication. The simplicity of the idea is its strength, allowing it to build into a campaign across channels and geographies, over time. Thus Solvite, a humble wallpaper paste, achieved brand fame and a perceived premium to its peers.
The theme of an inspired idea, born from a brand’s DNA, with the potential to grow into an entertaining campaign, delivering salience and fame over time, was what inspired me to get into the world of advertising.
Whether it was the illicit appeal, for someone still definitively underage, I don’t know, but the commercials I loved tended towards those promoting vices: Stella Artois "Reassuringly expensive", Silk Cut "Hamlet, the mild cigar", Guinness "Pure genius" and the John Smith’s "Arkwright" spots. For a long while, the "Heineken refreshes" campaign, brought memorably to life by Lowe Howard-Spink’s 1985 "Water in Majorca" ad was my favourite.
But then, in 1991, several events occurred that solidified marketing as my chosen profession. As an impressionable young adult, I’d been swept up in the euphoric tide of the "Madchester" music scene. Manchester felt like the centre of the universe. So when Bartle Bogle Hegarty launched its "Cream of Manchester" campaign for Boddington’s, its impact on me usurped anything preceding it. It was the iconic print work that initially captured my imagination. It conveyed the central product benefit of "creaminess" with such wit, craft and simplicity, I was simply in awe.
That same year, I undertook a pilgrimage to the Northwest to study marketing at Lancaster University. It was here I learned the importance of creativity within a broader strategic and commercial marketing context. But, under the expert tutelage of Professor Richard Elliott, I also delved deeper into my fascination with the power of creativity. He introduced me to the work of Bill Bernbach and there are three Bernbach quotes that have stuck with me throughout my career:
"An important idea not communicated persuasively is like having no idea at all."
"Research can trap you into the past."
"We are so busy listening to statistics, we forget we can create them."
I’ve spent much of my career working for brands that are creating new technology or which source their customers predominantly through data and research. So the latter two quotes feel particularly relevant to this day. Data and research can sharpen the impact of your work, but your stronger competitors will have similar data too. I’ve always admired brands therefore who have used creative foresight to drive commercial impact, rather than simply taking on the norms of their category. It requires bravery, but in my post-university career I’ve seen plenty of powerful case studies – a great example being the WCRS work for the launch of Orange which foretold the opportunity of an accessible, wireless world, well before the web became mainstream.
I wasn’t involved with any of the great advertising I’ve mentioned above. But I hope the lessons I’ve taken from that work has contributed to me being a better "client", championing creatively led campaigns to deliver a positive impact on customer advocacy, brand fame and commercial outcomes. The Expedia "Luggage tags" and "Travel yourself interesting" campaigns, that I developed with Ogilvy & Mather, are built on the simple insight that travel enriches lives to create a multimedia platform for great creative work. It eschewed the "palm trees and price points" norm of the category while delivering tangible commercial effectiveness. At Monster, we’re lucky enough to help connect the right people with the right jobs, which allows businesses to grow and individuals to lead more fulfilling lives. It’s a dream brief and Mcgarrybowen have helped us deliver a global campaign that plays to this, rather than the functional aspects of job search, which so many of our peers pursue in their communication.
So perhaps marketing is the exception to the rule – that being stimulated by glue, alcohol and tobacco limits the longevity of your career.
Andrew Warner is the executive vice-president and chief marketing officer of Monster Worldwide