Big picture v pixels

In 1912, Second Officer David Blair sailed on a brand new ocean liner, from Belfast to Southampton.

It was to start its maiden Atlantic voyage there, Southampton to New York.

But when they arrived in Southampton, Blair found he was to be replaced by a more senior officer, Henry Wilde.

Blair was bitterly disappointed, and it may have been this that made him forget to hand a key to his replacement.

The key unlocked the case where the binoculars for the crow’s nest were kept.

After the ship had sailed he remembered the key, but it was too late.

Oh well, hopefully it wasn’t important, they shouldn’t need the binoculars.

But that wasn’t the way it turned out.

The ship was the Titanic, and the men in the crow’s nest didn’t see the iceberg they hit until it was too late.

Fred Fleet, one of the surviving crew, was questioned by US Senator Smith, who was chairing the enquiry.

He asked: "Suppose you had glasses, could you have seen the object at a greater distance?"

Fleet answered: "We could have seen it a bit sooner."

The Senator asked: "How much sooner?"

Fleet answered: "Well, soon enough to get out of the way."

But they didn’t have glasses because they didn’t have the key to the case.

Binoculars were expensive, so keeping them safe was considered a priority, that’s why there was only one key.

But in the scheme of things they got their priorities wrong.

Keeping the ship safe should have been a greater priority than keeping the binoculars safe.

But they forgot what the purpose of the binoculars was.

To keep the binoculars safe they only had one key which they gave to one officer.

When he forgot the key, the binoculars were safe, but the ship was blind.

And in keeping the binoculars safe they lost the ship, and 1,522 passengers, and the entire White Star shipping line.

The big picture was to keep the ship safe, not to keep the binoculars safe.

But the people in charge couldn’t see the big picture, only their little picture.

That sort of thing often happens when people get their priorities wrong.

They prioritise their part of the job over everything else.

Whatever business we work in, we will come up against people like that.

In our business, the numbers are: £20bn spent annually on advertising and marketing. 

Of which 4% is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively, 89% isn’t noticed or remembered.

I’m not in marketing, I’m in advertising – advertising is the voice of marketing.

So it’s my job to make sure we’re not in the 89% that isn’t noticed or remembered.

But when I’m trying to do that, what I’ll often hear back is:

"The colour you’ve used doesn’t exactly match the brand guidelines."

"We could run more ads if we made the spaces much smaller." 

"We can fit a lot more messages in this ad."

"Can’t the music be a bit more modern?"

"Can the people be cycling in the ad, I like cycling?"

"I think she’s wearing the wrong colour tights."

And I realise we’re not all on the same page, we have different priorities.

For some people their pixel is the priority, not the big picture.

But surely, the big-picture is to make sure the advertising is seen and remembered.

Not to tick boxes.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three


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