50th Anniversary of ‘Campaign’

When the 50th Anniversary issue of the advertising industry ‘bible’ ‘Campaign’ thudded onto the doormat, it was a great surprise.

Not only was the magazine packed with info and pics from advertising’s last 50 years, it was back to its original large size. As a weekly tabloid news publication it was important. As a an A4 magazine it didn’t seem the same. Now, it was back to its former glory.

I first came across Campaign back in the 1970s when news, gossip, client wins and more by the UK’s biggest advertising agencies was devoured by the small agencies in the sticks, just as much as it was in London.

White Collins Rutherford Scott. Saatchi and Saatchi. And J Walter Thompson to name three. There were dozens more and they were all legendary for the work they did and clients they did it for.

In the mid 1980s, I worked for a Sheffield agency called Stanley D Dickson. Formed in 1926, SDD as it was known, was one of the leading technical agencies of its generation. I joined this agency as media manager in 1983, when it still produced work for some of Britain’s biggest manufacturers.

A couple of years later there was a major change to its management team and the agency sought to reinvent itself as a highly ambitious and creative ‘consumer’ agency.

Which is where ‘Campaign’ comes into my story.

If you want to stand out in any market you must disrupt the status quo. And at this time it was a given that small provincial agencies got on with keeping themselves to themselves, producing work for their ‘local’ clients.
For the incoming management team this wasn’t anything like enough! They wanted more.

Managing director, Bernard McMahon, was photographed by Lord Snowdon in a very atmospheric and imposing way and became the face of the agency on billboards across the UK.

My brief as media manager was to source 48 sheet poster sites located as close as possible to the agencies we wanted to take on and position the agency up there alongside the UK’s top advertising companies.

Bernard’s imposing pic alongside the message “If you are talking to (agency name) talk to me!┬áThis was firmly aimed at the clients of the targeted agencies, on their doorstep, in a message ten feet high.

Supported by a full page advertisement in Campaign the work appeared, it created the intended effect.
The Campaign ad listed all the agent names we had targeted and the location of ‘their’ poster.

On the day the ad appeared, at least one top agency chief rang our agency to tell us that the address in the ad was not their correct address!
The result was that we did get onto new business pitch lists that the agency would never normally get near and in fact, did pitch against agencies we targeted.

Looking back, going toe-to-toe with ‘Gold Greenlees Trott’ and creative giant, Dave Trott, was probably not such a good idea, but the Campaign worked.

A small agency in the north of England shook up the advertising industry!

At the same time, I was due to attend a media conference in Manchester and given that we had taken on the industry in such a bold manner made me slightly nervous.

In fact, my counterparts from the agencies I met there loved the poster campaign – one from one of the largest Manchester agencies of the time telling me that we should have gone further and put the posters outside the local pub they took clients to!

Campaign Magazine played an important part in the success of that campaign. It’s great to look back and remember.

I’d like to think that, in my present company, that disruptive thinking is still behind what we do for clients. It is certainly what makes advertising the exciting business that it is – and always has been.

Geoff Noake is the founder of AdPlace Marketing and Media.

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