Monday, 10 January 2011


Focus is the word of the moment or, if you’re a sportsman, staying in “the zone” or “the bubble.” The trouble is that just as Gekko’s observation in the film “Wall Street” - “lunch is for wimps”-  led to a generation of anorexic miseries – so a fixation on focus is impeding the detour-taking rambles of the curious minded.

I remember when I was young hearing the aphorism “life is real and life is earnest” and thinking it rather strange because life seemed a hoot. Politicians like MacMillan or Callahan always had a ready turn of ironic phrase. Industrial heroes were all comedians as well as being fearless warriors. Women like Anita Roddick. Men like John Harvey-Jones of ICI, Robert Townsend of Avis or Jerry Della Femina of whatever advertising agency he chose to be running at the time and author of the book about advertising, with the title from a supposed end line for a campaign for Panasonic he’d dreamed up, “From those Wonderful Folks that brought you Pearl Harbour”.

Food was a key to creativity. We all met, talked, laughed and had ideas with our mouths full. Richard French one of the champions of creativity and marketing who could laugh at himself, decided to cut costs in one of his agencies – quite a reversal of human nature for Richard, cost cutting. He decided client entertaining should be trimmed but was told by the accountants that in fact all lunch costs were not only re-billed to clients but that a commission of 17.65% was also added to them. This delicious discovery prompted his writing of one of the world’s immortal office memos.

It was entitled “Eat Your Way to Profit.”

This is not going to be a nostalgic things-used-to–be-more-fun piece. It’s a mild but critical observation I’m making that an inability to play as well as work, to see the funny side, is hindering current leaders and managers. I never thought I’d be yearning for the return of showmen like Peter Marsh or sports leaders like Malcolm Allison but I do.

And as David Ogilvy observed “the consumer is not a moron, she’s your wife”. We started to treat our customers seriously when we started to make them laugh.  It’s time to lighten up and have some great conversations, flirtatious fun and enjoy the ironies of life.

And if Twitter is really as good as it gets I shall have to get very drunk.

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