The advertising is not your friend

Years ago, when I was at art school in New York, Chase Manhattan bank ran a huge ad campaign.

Everything featured the same strapline: 

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND AT CHASE MANHATTAN.

I kept seeing it everywhere, but it never really made sense to me.

It just seemed like something a greasy salesman would say.

Pretending to be my friend so he could sell me something.

A few weeks later, one of its competitors, Bankers Trust bank, began running posters next to Chase Manhattan’s posters. 

These new posters said: 

IF YOU WANT A FRIEND GO BUY A DOG. 

YOU’LL FIND A BANKER AT BANKERS TRUST.

And immediately I knew what they were saying: this isn’t just a lot of advertising flannel.

Bankers Trust won’t pretend to be your friend.

We are in business and, if we can work out a deal with you, we will.

But it will be a sensible deal that works for both of us.

Not a salesman pretending to be your friend in order to manipulate you.

And immediately I knew which bank I’d rather do business with.

The bank that understood I wasn’t looking for a pretend-friend to pretend-care about me. 

I wanted a professional to advise me and help with my problems.

Polite and respectful, sure – but this is business.

Let’s be straight from the start and have a relationship based on trust, not manipulation:

IF YOU WANT A FRIEND GO BUY A DOG. 

YOU’LL FIND A BANKER AT BANKERS TRUST.

And that’s how I like to deal with people.

Because, for me, friends and work are two different briefs.

Friends are fun, whereas work is serious.

Friends are subjective, whereas work is objective.

But clients don’t seem to see it that way.

I was on a panel with clients recently, and I expressed this view.

They seemed horrified.

To them, liking the people they work with is essential.

They wouldn’t want to work with rude people.

Well, of course not – neither would I.

But I don’t think doing a job objectively constitutes being rude.

Whereas constantly pretending to be friends gets in the way of the job, and that is rude.

That’s why it’s irrelevant whether or not we like each other.

It’s also why it’s irrelevant whether or not the client likes the ads.

One of the first things I teach students is that we are professionals now, so our own personal, subjective feelings are irrelevant.

We no longer say "I like this ad" or "I don’t like this ad".

We now say "This ad works because…" or "This ad doesn’t work because…"

We train ourselves, by our language, to focus on what works.

Not just on what we personally like.

Otherwise, it would be like picking a skilled tradesman because we like their personality rather than how well they can do the job.

And that’s how I think ads should be judged.

By how well they do the job.

Not by how well the client likes them.

I think that’s how we, and the public, want our ads to work.

Like professionals dealing with people in a grown-up, trustworthy way.

Not like greasy salesmen pretending to be their friend.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.

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