MARKETING MIX: HOBBY HORSE; C of E needs gusto if it is to become church of the 90s

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.

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

Award.



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