John Singleton, “Not a bad time to make a comeback,”
Australian Business, October 30, 1985, p. 143.
When you’ve been out of anything for eight years, you do entertain serious doubts about making a comeback — especially when it is an industry as volatile as advertising is supposed to be.
Well, I’ve been back a bit over three months and the only thing that has changed since 1978 is TV advertising rates. They had exploded beyond reality because of excessive demand.
But, the irresistible forces of supply and demand have knocked the rates down to where they should have been all along: still high but only as high as the most effective mass medium ever invented deserves to have them.
Clients are less structured but more anxious to make ads pay for themselves.
Agencies, on the other hand, have learned little and are still structured as they were in the 1960s — let alone the ’70s. I have never known a climate where so many clients are so unhappy with so many agencies. It is not a bad time to come back. Mind you, out of sight is not necessarily out of mind.
I noted in a recent edition of the advertising trade magazine B&T that Doyle Dane Bernbach’s Pacific and Asia chief Alan Pilkington said DDB in Australia was not big enough.
He said the agency (which started in Australia by acquiring my agency, SPASM, in 1975) still suffers from its close association with my own good name. I would have thought that, if they have not been able to acquire their own good name after eight years, they might do better than blame me. After all, it is eight years since DDB actually burned my effigy in the Bonython Gallery.
DDB also moved out of the “not sufficiently professional” Bonython Gallery offices and was replaced by a couple of new young fellows who wanted to move in. The new tenants loved the Bonython offices as much as I did and do.
The hopefuls started the incredibly successful Mojo and are still happily at Bonython. Perhaps DDB is not “big enough” because of other reasons.
Since my return, I have often been asked which campaigns I would like to have done.
Apart from the Arnotts biscuits trucks, which remain the best advertisements of all time, I reckon it’s a toss up between McDonald’s and Tooheys and XXXX beer commercials.
McDonald’s probably wins by a whisker because its promotions are as good as its commercials. Anyone who can sell hamburgers without beetroot has to be doing great ads.
The only other finalist? No Knickers. Fantastic.
Retail advertising remains a gigantic hole with only David Jones appearing to have any firm sense of direction and style.
In the past eight years, I have indulged in many ways including three TV series — one a Saturday night variety show which suffered from a little bit of bad luck off the field of play. Another was an outback documentary series which would have been acclaimed throughout the world if it had only had another “star” and there was a late-night, every-night interview show …
For good years on radio talking back to the most powerful, helpless, influential and meaningless in our community.
I even owned a circus with John Laws.
I promoted (gratis) the Rocky Gatellari comeback fight which was a sell-out but proved once and for all that the product has to be as good as the promotion.
I ran a rugby league club (Newtown) that went from being a perpetual wooden-spooner to grand finalist in two years and then got kicked out of the league because the crowds went down quicker than the performances went up.
I promoted league-a-thons.
I promoted the Australian and world rodeo title with the best cowboys competing for prizemoney bigger than in the Calgary Stampede and filled the Showground top deck for the first time since World Ward II.
I promoted concerts with entertainers all the way from Eartha Kitt to Tiny Tim.
I bred and raced horses (among them Best Western, Gypsy Kingdom, Veloso, Beans and — the greatest of them all — Strawberry Road).
I travelled the world. I did what I had to do. I put up my own money and had a go and I had a ball. I won a lot, I lost a lot; so what? Now, I’m back doing what I do best.
For how long? Until I don’t want to anymore.
The saddest thing I have seen since my return has been the advertising campaign about advertising itself created by the advertising industry. It seems to attempt to suggest that, if there weren’t any TV commercials, people would come in and take away all your furniture so you would have to sit on your nice cedar floor and women would all be blindfolded and other sundry nonsense.
How much better it would be if the industry would fight realities: the banning of cigarette advertising, the restrictions on the advertising of alcohol and its inevitable ban and now heinous charges being laid against Dr Geoff Edelsten because the “advertising” signs are too big outside his 24-hour surgeries which have taken medicine from the cottage industries to the 1980s.
Shouldn’t we fight for entrepreneurs such as Edelsten to be allowed to go on TV if he wants to and if it is profitable? Or would that be too practical?
As I said, it’s nice to be back, there’s plenty to be done.
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