PERSPECTIVE: Comedy duo’s ad idea left Dorlands with all the credit

Agencies are always on a hiding to nothing in television documentaries.

Agencies are always on a hiding to nothing in television


It’s too easy to confirm the flash adman stereotype. So it was

astonishing that Bates Dorland emerged with credit from this week’s ad

industry episode of the Hale and Pace Jobs for the Boys series.

The product was a new Dixcel toilet tissue whose USP is, it’s got

dimples and is thereby - allegedly - softer. Selling bog roll is, of

course, a cue for instant mirth.

Except, that is, for the earnest client whose livelihood depends on it,

and the consumer who must buy some every week. This was not ’your life

in their hands’. A certain suspension of disbelief was required. Viewers

are now advertising-literate enough to realise this.

Hale and Pace had a head start over most aspiring creatives. They have a

proven record in comedy, have written sketches and even appeared in ads.

It was also a TV programme that required their ideas to get made.

They very nearly didn’t. We followed the duo first to a shoot, next to

the Watford copywriting course, then off to the Dixcel factory to

interrogate the product, and back to the agency where they presented an

end-less stream of ideas to an unimpressed creative director, who’d seen

them all before. Of course, the duo could write funny sketches, but what

relevance did these have to the client’s product?

We all learned a few things. The obvious lesson was the importance of a

clear brief - all they had was ’it’s got dimples, so it’s softer’ - in a

market where all brands sell on softness. Another was what a

soul-destroying job being a creative can be. How many people have the

fruit of their personal imagination and labour so frequently blown out?

A third lesson was how difficult being a creative director is, having to

reject work without destroying people’s confidence. A fourth was that

it’s true, research is killing creativity - or at least people’s ability

to make the kind of instinctive judgments they are paid for. The fifth

is that the BACC needs sorting out. The harmlessness of the scripts

rejected was matched only by the apparent randomness of the ruling,

later overturned.

Perhaps the biggest lesson was that it’s the client who is under the

most intense pressure.

It’s his money, his business, his brand.

Despite their fame, despite the TV programme, Hale and Pace began to get

genuinely stressed out about their task in a way they hadn’t over - for

example - designing a fashion collection. You genuinely felt for them as

they awaited feedback from the focus groups. Luckily they did get an

idea through. Amazingly, it was fresh, it was funny and the client was

happy. They, and the watching millions, had learned how tough

advertising was. Not long after this was filmed so did the creative

director - Tim Ashton.


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