Whilst rifling through my late Father’s files and papers from many moons ago, an un-assuming red vinyl folder appeared. Dusty with flakes of paint. I didn’t realise the ubiquitous red plastic ring binder even existed back then.
A closer inspection showed in dull gold emboss:
Advertising Proposal to the Ford Motor Company by Ogilvy and Mather, 6th November 1966.
That’s 48 years ago. (hence the seemingly irrelevant point about plastic folder)
Thumbing through it is a magical insight into the Mad Men of London. Where agency executives would invite their clients back to their homes for the weekend and expect the ‘wives’ to do their bit. Where client jollies meant a trip to St Tropez on the agency yacht, rather than a latte at Costa Coffee.
But perhaps the most salient point, that I’m now going to wade into, is that actually, things haven’t changed much in 48 years.
The structure of the presentation is spot on. Strategically it’s as you would do these days, ok, social media and responsive design aren’t there, but when you look at the broader picture of the marketing mix, they are merely channel details.
The other point, one close to my heart, is that tonally, again it’s not really that different. Yes it’s very serious, but then wouldn’t you be if you were trying to win the UK account for the Ford Motor Company? It’s more that it feels conversational, the whole piece tells us a story, it takes us on a journey.
So if you’re reading this now and thinking, bugger, I’ve got a pitch presentation to write and I can’t quite work out how to start it off – well you’d do well to follow this simple approach:
Immersion – here they show what they’ve done since being briefed, it’s total rigor: 2000 miles in Ford cars, meeting every department, from design to dealers to psychologists. They’ve done the lot and I bet had some cracking lunches along the way… the Motorway service station was quite des res in those days too…
Brief agency credentials – they explain why they’re the right fit, allude to the stature of other brands they work with and creative nous on Shell, Milk Marketing Board (drinka pinta milka), the Coal Board, Players cigs and the secret of Schh. The latter surprising in its confidence but also I think very sophisticated for its time.
Interpretation of the client brief – They lay out what they think the nub of the brief is: to enhance brand reputation / improve product quality. (in layman’s terms get rid of the ‘rust bucket perception) Ford cite Marks and Sparks as their brand goal (first class quality, excellent design, low cost and no class connotations) I have to say, those M&S lambswool jumpers you get these days are a good example of this… they look like a BMW M3 but cost as little as a Ford Focus RS.
Strategy – Here they outline current industry context. Interestingly, they mention that the expectation is the life of a car is expected to go DOWN from 11 years to 10 years and that they expect car population to go up from 9 million to 14 million in 4 years (that is a 60% increase). God help us, imagine if it was the same now, it would mean current car population going from 32m to 51.2m by 2019!
Following their response to brief, it’s straight into the strapline and it’s meaning, in this case:
A FORD WILL BECOME YOU… I’ll leave you to work out the double meaning here, but it’s aimed to big up the C2 social group (their core target audience)
In the explanation of this, they also mention that a ‘dramatic blow is needed to make people rethink long held opinions.’ Again, nothing has changed really, we’re still trying to find the coup de grace that smacks our audience in the face!
The strategic part then finishes with the results of preliminary research into the creative routes and how consumers have fed back the required response to the brief. So, before the creative is even presented, we’re left in no doubt that whether the clients like it or not, the consumer already does! So don’t be silly Mr Client. This is a banker!
Next up the creative, ok this does feel very different, both tonally, but also the way the scripts are presented – note: ‘The pictures’ and ‘The words’ But also the reams of copy in the print. Blimey people had time on their hands to read that stuff – ok so that’s the third thing that’s changed! Essentially the creative work is all about reappraisal, the print plays the role of detailed product info to infer quality and longevity and the TV uses the emotional pull of what a car says about the man of today (1966)
And finally, as Trevor McDonald would say:
Media – And a whopping £850K media budget incl. £80K production alongside a plea for the client to consider TV ads rather than print, but no mention of timelength, 3 minute ads being the norm!
So from one ream to another… OK so a few things have changed; channel mix, print ads, the way the gender gap is used as a creative device, but the basics to advertising, the strategic thought process, which after all is the foundation to all pitches and ad campaigns, well, they are still totally the same.
So what’s the moral of the story? Well in my book, it means, those Mad Men boys did it just right back then, so why reinvent the wheel? Lets bring back heavy drinking at lunchtime, and swanning about on yachts in St Tropez – because if this presentation is anything to go by – this is the measure of success. If you needed substance behind this claim, this is the key fact:
“Ogilvy and Mather have been Ford’s incumbent agency for nearly 50 years now.”
But don’t forget…
Author: Adam Fausset
Adam worked at W+K London for ten years and Ogilvy for six years. He champions the importance of brand voice and consistency of communication. Adam insists on a very high standard of creative thinking and believes the secret to brilliant, effective work is simplicity and being utterly single-minded.