Oddly enough, many of the creative folk who attack David Ogilvy’s
’unbending old rules’ seem all too happy to write a couple of new ones:
1. Nobody ever reads body copy in press advertising. 2. A telephone
number in any ad or commercial can only detract from its
These seem more restrictive than anything Ogilvy, Bird or Hopkins ever
claimed - and far more subjective.
They are also based on a depressing assumption: that, when you
advertise, you are indiscriminately addressing a mass of equally
indifferent consumers, none of whom has much urge to find out more about
the product in question or can be stimulated to deepen contact with the
Recently, more and more interesting work is countering this. And,
increasingly, the need for response is not seen as detracting from the
message - but as helping to create it.
Army recruitment is one topical case. Did that dreaded phone number
detract from the advertising? Hardly. I would claim that,
subconsciously, it helped to form it. For those involved, the need for
response caused the message to be creatively targeted right at the core
of the target audience, and led to gloriously self-selecting creative
executions such as a commercial you could only watch by getting up at
The need for response drives you towards a more defined view of your
audience - what Steve Henry calls ’a kind of precision targeting’ - with
all the creative benefits that brings. As the copywriter, Howard
Gossage, had it, ’I don’t know how to write to everybody, just to
And with that comes another discovery that Gossage pioneered. That, for
some people, advertising needn’t end with the ad. Give people reason
enough, talk to them directly enough, and they’ll willingly interact
further - getting up at 5.45am, calling a number, writing in, visiting a
website, buying the T-shirt and the hat. Perhaps turning a 30-second
commercial into a longer-lasting brand experience.
Played right, this group won’t just want to view your brand from afar,
they can take up residence. To them, brand advertising with no means of
response or continuation is advertising interruptus. As incongruous as
designing a magnificent hotel exterior but failing to install a doorman,
a reception or any furnishings. In these cases it is not enough to
employ a ’brand architect’ - you need a ’brand interior designer’.
In two campaigns, for Martini and for Tango, HHCL’s belief in precision
targeting demonstrates nifty brand interior design, showing that a
response needn’t just be a perfunctory transactional reaction to an
advertisement - it can be an extension of the advertisement and a
powerful ’ad’ in its own right. A similarly neat example came from an
agency advertising Alton Towers’ Oblivion ride, where callers to the
number were taunted with claims that they wouldn’t be brave enough to
endure the experience.
It’s all the more interesting for happening in product areas where
traditionalists would have denounced the possibilities of responsive
advertising. The point is that people will form a relationship if you
offer a genuine benefit for doing so. Nobody much will call up ’for more
details on the Ariel range of laundry solutions’ but then nobody would
have called for details of ’the Britvic range of refreshment options’
either. You have to create a compelling reason to act.
Or - and here’s the other side of the relationship - sometimes you just
have to be there when they need you. Unlike the work above, the line,
’If you have a query with your bill, call London Electricity on ...’, is
unlikely to make it into Private View. But I’ve just called them at 11pm
and they dealt with my query immediately and effectively. It’s not
’clever’ or ’creative’, but it’s the most impressive ad for London
Electricity I’ve come across all year.
Sometimes a phone call doesn’t need a great ad. Sometimes it is the ad.