I don’t know about the Church of England or the Blessed Virgin Mary but
I’m having a bad hair day myself. When you’re 40-something and male
almost every day is a bad hair day (see picture, left). What isn’t
actually falling out turns grey and wiry, or for some strange reason
spirals uncontrollably out of your ears. But enough of my problems -
back to the C of E. I have an idea for their advertising, which let’s
face it is an advance on where they are now.
Eons ago, I worked for that much-underestimated advertising agency Allen
Brady Marsh. In about 1981 it proudly dubbed itself ‘The agency of the
80s’, which turned out to be as prophetic as it was boastful, because
having barged its way to become the fifth biggest in the country it
crumpled into a heap just as the calendars flipped to 1990.
All the ABM folklore is true: Peter Marsh in the white suit, the Rod
Allen jingles, the rollicking presentation style, the writs to Campaign.
But there was real substance behind the showbiz. Prospective clients
staggered from pitches weighed down by clever documents explaining how
we had unearthed ‘the truth in the product’.
Cynics may be forgiven for questioning how closely ‘The age of the
train’ or ‘The wonder of Woolies’ reflected the truth of those
particular products, but what the clients may have lacked the agency
more than made up for with - a favourite Peter Marsh word - gusto.
Thus it was that a procession of mammoth organisations, knackered by industrial troubles, lack of clear leadership, internal wranglings and
far too little competitive pressure, trooped into the arms of ABM to
have their problems sorted out with a double dose of gusto.
It was remarkable what a catchy slogan and pounds 25m (at today’s
prices) could achieve: halting the long-term decline in doorstep milk
sales (‘Milk’s gotta lotta bottle’), or giving a half-human face to a
haughty financial institution (‘The listening bank’).
I believe Rod Allen is comfortably retired in some remote shire, but
Peter Marsh is still knocking around the smarter dining clubs, and still
looking amazingly robust (another favourite word).
The Church of England needs ‘Bad hair day’, well, like it needs a bad
hair day. Such a pitiful attempt to look trendy will be roundly mocked
by anyone under 25, and contemptuously dismissed by anyone over 25.
What the Church needs, of course, is gusto. Gusto applied to the truth
in the product.
What it needs is the Allen Brady Marsh treatment: ‘This is the age of
the Church’; ‘The listening Church’; ‘The wonder of Jesus’; ‘I’m a
secret Communion-taker’; ‘This is luxury you can afford - from the Good
Lord’; ‘God has gotta lotta bottle’.
It’s all there. Any one of them would be better than ‘Bad hair day’.
Dust them off, a decent slug of primetime telly and a few of the same
poster sites used for the Tony Blair devil-worship ads, and before you
can say ‘1001 Cleans a Big Big Cathedral for less than Half a Crown’,
the Church of England will have won an IPA Advertising Effectiveness