There have been some awesome ad campaigns over the years – Here’s one! But there have been some shockers too!


There are about 65 million people in the UK. It’s a tiny little island of the coast of Europe. Yet historically we have been one of the most powerful trading companies in the world, and still ranks one of the largest economy in the world. The population of the UK are some of the most sophisticated consumers the world has ever seen. Our kids, frighteningly, still knocked us into a cocked hat in those terms. They are super consumers already, being able to spot an ad a mile of or a sales pitch from 50 yards.

I’d argue there are VERY few people in our country (or most other places in the developed world) that could not have a reasonable discussion about advertising and / or marketing. I think we could stop even an old Granny in the street (with respect to Grannies everywhere!) and ask them about their favourite ad campaigns on TV or on the radio or wherever. They may pick the brilliant Cadbury campaign above for instance, or one of the many Guiness ads from over the years.

If you were to poll 10 would be entrepreneurs about their plans for their new business, I’d bet advertising and / or marketing would be top three for most of them. We have a believe in the often insidious power of advertising in this country. A deeply held belief that has been layered over us over decades of watching and listening to commercials.

So powerful is our conviction in the power of advertising, our Government, our elected body of law makers, have legislated against it, to PROTECT to vulnerable amongst us. Quite correctly, one can’t advertise tobacco, alcohol, gambling etc. by law. Thats a pretty serious set of beliefs right there.

So why then, do you think, do I have to employ people to go out and sell advertising on my commercial radio station? Why do entrepreneurs like you, and SMEs like you all over the UK, not just here is South Wales, resist buying TV or Radio or Outdoor, or Press, or Social Media or whatever.

I’m not talking about mega brands that spend billions on advertising of all shapes and sizes every year, I’m talking about the local and region businesses that our economy is propped up by. Businesses for whom an efficient ad campaign can make a huge difference.

I’ll tell you why, and its advertising’s dirty little secret. The vast majority of advertising sales people out there today, don’t have the first idea of what they are talking about when it comes to advising their clients on what to buy.

So, having bought bad advertising, these people consider that advertising doesn’t work. at least for them. It clearly works for everyone else, but thousands of pounds later, having tried all sorts of different ideas out, whatever was trotted out by the sales person at the time, they have evidence that it doesn’t work for them.

In fact there are only two reasons why people don’t buy advertising – or anything else for that matter. They can’t afford it, and therefore we should not be selling to them in the first place, or more likely, they don’t see how it will work for them. Based on the fact they tried it before and it didn’t work. Probably multiple times.

So like other things they think they need, like insurance, or mobile phones, or rent or power costs, that they would rather not spend on, they make every effort to minimise the costs of what they do buy. They drive the rates into the ground. And why not? If there is no value in what they are buying, other than that derived from the actual act of advertising itself, why shouldn’t they drive the costs down. It’s just another transaction right?

If there is no strategic value worth paying a premium for, or any obvious return on investment, then everything will be down to minimise the cost of the activity they do undertake. Thats if they undertake any activity at all. Interestingly, in advertising, there exists a strange sort of business know as the media buyer, or sometimes local advertising agency.

I have met many great people at ad agencies, and many creative and worthwhile campaigns have been bought by them. But there seems to be a trend these days to support the advertiser in driving the costs of media down. They all appear to be trading on the ability to ‘buy it cheaper’ rather than make it better. Obviously, once the advertising has been stripped right back to its cheapest from, and any positive relationship with the media owner decimated by the constant erosion of margins, the advertising is likely to be even worse than it would have been.

Look, it’s not complicated OK? I can demonstrate how to advertise on an etcher-sketch in 15 seconds! (Thanks to Bill Hicks for that one!)

1. Stand for something. Be better or faster or in some other way different. Or cheaper.

2. Then tell as many people as you can, as many times as possible.

Thats it.

You can make the message more refined, target the audience more specifically, and cleverly reach them with all kinds of sophisticated media buying. But the principle remains the same.

TV Radio Outdoor Press or social media. The principle remains the same. Stand for something, and tell as many people as you can, as many times as possible. There, you didn’t need an ad agency to understand that did you? It’s not complicated is it? Why do we make it complicated then?

To justify the retainer we want to charge? Or the media commission we expect you to pay? Or to cover our lack of the basic principles of advertising theory and the ability to present same to our clients in simple, easy to understand terms.

As the great Dave ‘Giff’ Gifford once said ‘Its not rocket science people.’

I’ll tell you what, it’s so simple I’ll make you a deal. Tell me about your advertising problems and I’ll solve them. In 30 minutes or less. For free.

Too good to be true? Test me! Leave a comment below or contact me on the Facebook page. Tweet me @Radiojaja or you can even email me at [email protected]

It won’t harm, and you never know, it might even help!

Oh OK, heres another awesome TV campaign from VW, enjoy!


  1. Gareth Rees Jones
    Gareth Rees Jones says:

    Some good points, well made Dr. Dowling. Too many people in the advertising and marketing industries (usually under pressure from above) are now obsessed with driving down the costs of media and creative to such an extent that it totally dilutes the effectiveness and quality of campaigns. This in turn allows those who are applying the pressure to justify their belief that advertising and marketing is simply a cost centre and not a worthwhile long term investment. You get what you pay for!

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      its an interesting cycle Gareth. Clients, not getting the results they might expect, drive down the cost, as you say, further diluting the ability of the advertising to work. Therefore perpetuating the problem. Thanks for the comment, glad you stopped by!

  2. Andy Petersen
    Andy Petersen says:

    Having run my own advertising agency for 13 years I have come across many clients who have had a bad experience with advertising in whatever form. In a large number of cases this has been brought about by them having been sold the proposition that if they put all their money into TV or radio or outdoor or press or cinema or any other media you wish to name then this will deliver them the best results. It may well work initially but then it begins to tail off. Having bought countless campaigns in the 19 years of working with predominantly South Wales clients I have found that a mixed media campaign works best. Like the man said its not rocket science ! If most people follow 3 simple rules advertising generally works very well and sometimes brilliantly.
    1. Have a clear proposition to place before the target market.
    2. Ensure that the creative execution is of a high standard.
    3. Choose the appropriate media that best delivers that target market.
    It’s not always about price but it is always about value for money. If you treat the clients money as if it were your own then this will give you a clear focus and ensure that the campaign will stand the best chance of succeeding.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks Andy, a very valuable insight that! From the horses mouth as it were. And in fariness theres no one can argue with your ideas either, in my opinion! Great to have here on the blog!

  3. duanechristensen
    duanechristensen says:

    Nice post Tony. Ever watch Fringe? I think I’m YOU in the alternate universe. On the “agency” note… I work with some that are great. And then there are those that make everybody’s lives a living hell because of their demands and constant begging for more added value and lower rates. And then there are some agencies in my area that want US to do their work for them (write ads, come up with promotion ideas, etc.) Geesh. An agency person will probably read this and put a “hit” out on me. Just kidding. No offense, Andy. : ) There are great ad reps and crappy ad reps. There are great agencies and crappy agencies.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Ha Ha! Having read your excellent blog Duane, I know what you mean, its uncanny! But then we are only talking common sense based on our experience of what works no? And your quite right, as was Andy, there are good and bad everywhere in all walks of life. But we do seem to attract our unfair share of the bad in advertising land! 🙂

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      It was extremely well received and much copied for a time. They repeated the formula too, but interestingly, seemingly with less success. The best creative ideas wear out the fastest don’t they?

  4. Peter Neville
    Peter Neville says:

    Why would the gorilla be a good advert? Gorilla, drums, chocolate … er … sorry, don’t get it.
    A case of the emperor’s new clothes perhaps?

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Hi Peter! Interesting question… I think chocolate being an impulse and low involvement purchase requires mostly ‘top of mind’ or ‘share of mind’ in order to sell. Ads like this, and the tactic has been repeated many times, intend only to ‘cut through’ the noise of other ads, and encourage ‘water cooler’ chat – taking the brand to that all important top of mind position. Cadburys sales increased many times over during this campaign and its been regarded as being one of the best ads ever! I’m not sure there is anything ‘to get’ as such – its merely creative and interesting, with great music. As i said, allowing the ad to be seen and to be remembered, exactly what FMCG brands need.
      thanks for the comment!

  5. Lize Rudolph Stroebel
    Lize Rudolph Stroebel says:

    Tony, I really like to read your articles and all the comments! I can identify with all of you. The crux of it all is, to give your client the best advice for a successful campaign. Best radio copy to move his product and the right choice of radio station or TV channel. Don’t think about your commission. You are delivering a service!Frequency remains still most important, and if budget allows, create new radio copies to keep interest by listerners or viewers. The old saying for a good advert still stays:”What is there in for me” when hearing the advert. Get reaction! Keep it basic. Each client is unique. Keep it that way. Some agencies tend to use the same writing style, same voice artist, same atmosphere for all their clients. I personally dissagree. When you see the two ads on TV, it could be any clients ads if you haven’t seen the last pay-off line and name. This is disturbing for me.
    Lucky me, I took off today. Had a bit too much deadlines, one difficult client which I am near to do something irresponsible to, and relaxing at home, is long overdue.
    Stay honest and humble and true to yourself.Keep learning!

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks Lize, for your great comments! In amongst your great advice is a point I missed, and its worth repeating. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE for frequency! Buy as many ads as you can. Brilliant, thanks for joining in!