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Monday, 10 March 2008

Why does so much marketing stink?

It's a small world, they say. Maybe that's why people keep copying each other- badly.

We were walking through Duke of York Square near our Chelsea flat when we spotted a sign in the window of a posh shop.

It read - I'm not kidding - "Lingerie is the new black".

What is it with marketers that they are so utterly devoid of imagination?

Did the buffoon who dreamt this up not know how fatuous it is? Why not say "Elephants are the new giraffes"?

My old boss David Ogilvy called this sort of idiocy "Skidding about helplessly on the slippery surface of irrelevant creative brilliance" - except that this was neither creative nor brilliant.

It was just a silly copy of a line that has suffered a thousand deaths in the fashion business over the last ten or fifteen years. When it first came out it was a fairly neat idea if you were a fashionista. Now it's just like the local pub bore repeating his one not very funny joke - and screwing up the punch line.

Why does this kind of tripe get out? The answer is simple. People know no better. They lack guidance. They have not been trained and are too idle or stupid to train themselves.

Their bosses clearly know no better either. They think the answer is to hire good looking 23 year olds who've just emerged from the shambles of a lamentable education system which has failed to teach them to write well or think clearly.

Well, many years ago I was a fairly good looking 23 year old but I didn't get anywhere on looks. I got to be a copy chief by 25 in a well-known London agency by studying - by reading everything I could get my hands on.

The first book I ever read in the Manchester Central Library was called Copy- the Core of Advertising by Aesop Glim, which was the pseudonym of a columnist in Printer's Ink, the advertising magazine.

And funnily enough two nights ago over dinner I discovered that a friend who has won more Cannes Lion awards for direct marketing than anyone in the world had read the same book.

The key to success is good, knowledgable people. And the key to better people is training.

What am I going to do about it?

Well, last week with two infinitely more attractive and hardworking associates I went to Brussels to gain European Certification for a year long programme that is going to train people in direct and interactive marketing, mostly throughout Central and Eastern Europe, starting in June.

The idea was my partner's, and I wonder if she realised what we were getting outselves into. However, we already have 11 of the national Direct Marketing Associations keen to participate.

I hope to entertain myself through my declining years helping to make it succeed. One of the lectureres will be the friend I had dinner with - and another will be my Australian partner. Should be fun.

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