potemkin.jpg
Sergei M. Eisenstein’s 1925 film, Battleship Potemkin
I have been giving a bit of thought to HHCL recently.


Howell Henry Chaldecott and Lury was the defining UK advertising agency of the ’90s, Campaign magazine’s agency of the decade and possibly the most idiosyncratic advertising company that has ever walked the face of the earth.
I should know, I worked in its various incarnations for nine years and still work for United London, one of its offspring.
There was a little reunion for HHCL people last week and as a result the legendary HHCL planner Jon Leach (he of Tango and the AA fame) has started to record the agency’s achievements over at pattern recognition.
His aphorism for the fate of HHCL is that the pioneers always get scalped. Way back he had another but similar phrase to suggest that being radical was a good idea but being revolutionary was not – the revolutionaries get shot on the palace steps. Not always true but all too often the case.
At HHCL we genuinely tried to stay radical rather than revolutionary but maybe we strayed off the radical path rather too often. Ideas and approaches that are common place now (and often regarded with awe and respect) are often stuff we tried on people years ago and got ridiculed for – from media neutrality (we called it 3D marketing) to holding meetings with clients in virtual environments where everyone adopts and avatar (we called it howellhenryland). We even created the world’s frist PVR friendly ad for Mazda (half a decade before they existed).
The example that grates most though is the idea of ethical marketing. About five years ago we tried to relaunch HHCL as the world’s first ethical advertising company and created an idea called Responsible Desire. I even wrote a manifesto for Responsible Desire that I have posted previously but is worth another butchers at here.
Needless to say the marketing community laughed us out of court and we filed the idea in the bin marked ‘nice thought but commercially irresponsible’.
Today the concept of sustainablity in business (prompted in large part by The Inconvenient Truth) is regarded as THE big idea – Greg Nugent from Eurostar talked at length about it at the APG’s battle of the big thinking. Then shock horror Disney has decided to remove junk food from its parks and its characters from junk food.
Sometimes it doesn’t pay to get to a great idea first – you just end up getting shot.
By the way here is that Blackcurrant Tango ad for old time’s sake. Take it away Ray Gardner…

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