What’s On

Advertising and Columbus’ Egg

Master baker Van Der Meulen asked us to make a TV commercial 20 years ago. Apart from the revised packaging, there wasn’t anything new and there also wasn’t any money. The master baker must have thought ‘a good start is half the work’. But the creative team wasn’t going to chicken out.

So a month later the commercial already aired on Dutch TV. We see a picture of the new packaging and hear a voice-over say: ‘Van Der Meulen’s crackers are now placed horizontally rather than vertically in the new pack. You’re probably wondering: what difference does it make? Well, a huge difference. It means the crackers are totally laidback when you get them. Plus they’re already in the spread position.’ And that’s often the way it goes.

Clients drop by to share their visions of innovation with electrifying enthusiasm. But innovation takes time and money, so it often doesn’t go much further than a few modest innovations along the lines of ‘with Jojoba’, ’10 per cent more peanuts’ or – yeah, you better sit down for this one – ‘now in raspberry flavour’. So they expect the advertising guy to present these breakthroughs in a really revolutionary way. And even though he’s happy to do this, people also want to be treated to a true innovation every now and then.

Like for instance the new Het Parool – an Amsterdam evening newspaper that started out as a resistance newspaper during WW II. The editor-in-chief wants to step out of the crowd of upbeat human-interest-and-other stuff newspapers. So no old wine in new bottles. But new journalists, columnists and sections that bring back the old fearless Het Parool pen and point of view. It even inspired a billboard at no place less than Times Square in New York.

Coincidental or not, we stumbled across another world-class innovation on the West Coast this week – the new Barbie. After 57 years of anorexia and a wasp waist, the new Barbie is curvy. Now that’s innovation we can grab and run with: ‘Barbie, now with 10 per cent more boobs and buttocks – absolutely free!’ So life is always good when you’re an advertising guy. Either you get to be the first to discover the most fantastic innovations. Or if there don’t happen to be any at the moment, you get to really put your creativity to the test. Or at least get to scramble up a Columbus’ Egg.

Dick van der Lecq

Dick van der Lecq is the Managing Director at DDB Unlimited. He was previously the Managing Partner at Etcetera.