Process And Predictability - Counting Stars: Creativity Over Predictability - Responsive Web Design, Part 2 (2015)

Responsive Web Design, Part 2 (2015)

Counting Stars: Creativity Over Predictability

Process And Predictability

I’d like you to cast your mind back to advertising ideas that have stayed with you. If you’re a British beer drinker, you might remember BBH’s The Cream of Manchester campaign for Boddingtons Brewery in the 1990s. In 1997, Boddingtons’ sales peaked, largely attributed to its clever advertising.

BBH’s ‘The Cream of Manchester’ campaign helped Boddingtons Brewery boost sales in 1997.

If you have more exotic tastes, you might recall Saatchi & Saatchi’s campaign for Castlemaine XXXX. The XXXX brand was first introduced way back in 1924, and the campaign taught thirsty Brits that Castlemaine is a town in the state of Victoria and XXXX refers to a tradition of using Xs to indicate the strength of a beer. Saatchi made the beer a household name in the 1980s with a campaign that featured the tagline, “Australians wouldn’t give a XXXX for anything else.”

Foster’s Lager is owned by a South African brewing group and the brand is licensed in Europe by the Dutch company Heineken International. Still, Fosters is stereotypically the “amber nectar” in the UK and “Australian for beer” pretty much everywhere else; except Australia, where they sell very little beer to thirsty Australians.

Personally, I’m more of a tea drinker, and I bet you can guess that I drink PG Tips. “Tips” was added to the brand name in 1955, to emphasize that PG used only the freshest parts of the tea plant, but it wasn’t until 1956 that Peter Sellers provided the voice for the first chimpanzee commercial.

Where do you think the idea for that first commercial came from? Did it come from asking a focus group? Did Brooke Bond conduct consumer research?

The idea for a campaign that lasted three decades came when a copyrighter at Davidson Pearce Berry and Spottiswoode, stuck for an idea for a new commercial, went for a walk around Regent’s Park, including London Zoo, where he saw chimpanzees dressed in human clothes having a tea party to entertain visitors.

I bet that if you’d asked a group of 1950s tea drinkers to personify tea, they would’ve suggested a beautiful Indian woman picking those tips before they told you about Ada the chimpanzee tea lady, played in the advert by Choppers, who said, “Cooey Mister Shifter!” No market research, no listening to consumers, no work on personas could stimulate an idea of the magnitude of the PG Tips chimps.


The web has meant that anyone with an idea can communicate it. You no longer have to spend big money on advertising in print media or on TV; and what mattered in the 1950s, in the early days of television advertising, matters today on the web.

It’s the idea.

An amazing, brilliant, crazy, delightful, entertaining, fantastic, gigantic, hilarious, inspiring — I don’t think I can make it all the way to Z — idea.

An idea can inspire, encourage, engage, make people think, and change their perceptions.

An idea that demands attention — not for its own self-gratification, not for exploitation, not for shock value — but attention to what it stands for.

As John Hegarty, the creative force behind Boddingtons’ The Cream of Manchester campaign, wrote in Hegarty on Advertising: Turning Intelligence Into Magic:

“Ideas are the building blocks of creativity. Whatever you create, from writing to filmmaking to painting to composing, you start with an idea. Without one you have nothing.”