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Monday, 7 February 2011

“It’s the same the whole world over – ain’t it all a bleeding shame"

This wonderful old song line came to mind when I read a story in Malaysia’s Advertising and Marketing magazine about a pitch for the Tourism Malaysia account.

The mag – which is excellent, by the way – comments that “Half the town is pitching for the account, and there has been a lot of frustration with Tourism Malaysia holding their cards too close to their chest.”

The incumbent agency was pissed about so much that they resigned the business and the story is running and running.

If I know anything about Malaysia – and I do as I have spent a lot of time there – the chances of this being a straightforward process are negligible. The politics will be unbearable and in Malaysia it very often really is a question of who you know.

But memory transported me back 40 odd years to my first big job in the mid ‘60s - as Copy Chief, then Creative Director of the London agency for the British Travel Association. Satisfying them was a nightmare as there was always a battle between the various regions about who got the most mentions.

This was hardly helped by the fact that we had to present to a committee. The chairman was Lord Manfield, a distinguished former Cabinet Minister whose knowledge of and interest in advertising was, I imagine, sketchy at best.

We also had the Greek National Tourist office account. In their case at least I knew I could never be accused of knowingly telling lies as I wrote the ads without ever having visited the place. Anyhow, the chief problem with them was not advertising. It was getting them to pay.

They had a marvellous line I wish I had written, “Greece greets you warmly” – one of those rare slogans which encapsulates the right message. Of course, they stopped using it. Fools.

As Bill Bernbach observed, one average campaign run for ten years is better than ten brilliant campaigns, one a year. But that was a brilliant line. The trouble with most clients - actually, most people - is that they mistake change for improvement.

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