Sometimes The Big Idea is The Bad Idea

If the 20th century did nothing else, it can claim to have produced and given a warm howdy-doody to more of mankind's monumentally bad ideas than any other century in history. But from communism to marching on Moscow in winter to...

If the 20th century did nothing else, it can claim to have produced and given a warm howdy-doody to more of mankind’s monumentally bad ideas than any other century in history.

But from communism to marching on Moscow in winter to running ads in Strategy using bloody-baseball-bat humour, bad ideas have a maddening way of only showing up in retrospect.

Bad ideas are a feature of The Human Condition, of course, as a few hours sitting around in small claims court will confirm. Furthermore, most humans get to exercise their bad ideas more or less in private, except in the case of particularly messy divorces.

But if you’re the kind of guy or gal who gets involved in major land wars in Asia, or winds up having your bad ideas shot on 35mm film and run on television till the cows come home, you’ve got to exercise particular vigilance. You gotta spot those questionable calls and crush ‘em before they turn really ugly and bite you on the ass.

Here’s an example. A few years back, I was working with a guy who’d made millions by taking small, mom-and-pop operations and growing them into profit-spewing powerhouses through the application of sound business controls and disciplines.

He rang me one day and said he figured he’d nailed the next grassroots industry, and a candidate company within it, that could be turned into a bonanza with one wave of his business-acumen wand.

The industry was catering trucks. A bunch of lonely guys who peddle coffee and sandwiches and Export As on construction sites and plant parking lots until they run out of stale doughnuts and go home around three and watch All My Children. But he’d found a catering guy in a small Ontario market who was really gung ho about growing his business. The guy had a fleet of trucks that ran 10 or 12 hours a day with on-board computers and freshness controls and menu management and whatever. Simply buy into the outfit, infuse capital, roll out the concept internationally and springboard to success.

There’s only one small problem said my friend. What’s that? I asked. The name he replied. The guy won’t change the company name for anything.

So what is it? There was a pause on the line. ‘Stomach Man’ he said.

So there it was. The bad idea. The small, raging tumour that was bound to rampage into some ghastly dog’s breakfast of Crotchburgers and Armpit Salads before you’d have known what hit you. Sadly, but I believe wisely, he threw Stomach Man back.

You flip through the channels, and there’s just so much stuff that sets off your alarm bells these days. Like the Domino’s Pizza spot. The Meatsa Trio! Three fat guys in tuxedos doing cheesy impressions of The Three Tenors and bellowing A-SPICY-PEPPERONIIIIII!!! with their bulging eyes and wet, gaping mouths a few inches off the surface of the product. Yuck!

There’s a spot running where a slightly fey cosmetic dentist admonishes us to inquire about having work done by dialing 1-800-NU MOUTH. The teeth are fine, but the mouth has to go! Ha Ha!

I guess if it really turns your crank, you can duct-tape a 65-pound dog around your neck and pull your clothing up over your head so somebody can button your shirt collar around the dog’s neck and, if it doesn’t scratch you to death or pee itself, you can run around the living room yelling LOOK I’M A DOG I’M A DOG! I am not kidding, somebody talked Honda into doing an Odyssey spot where people with dogs strapped to their heads sit in the car, wave from the car, read books in the car, drink pop in the car, and you sit there astounded and go what could they have been thinking?

I’ve given it a lot of thought for a commercial, and frankly I think it was a bad idea to bring Colonel Sanders back as a cartoon. Even if it was a good idea, it’s the wrong cartoon. I mean he was a pretty weird old buzzard in the flesh, with the wispy Fu Man Chu beard and the cane and everything, but the cartoon version is a travesty. An unctuous, blustering hick! A pushy, corn-pone huckster. Would you buy a chicken from this cartoon?

You know, there used to be a chicken chain called The Red Barn. They had a cartoon spokeschicken. A rooster, in a tux. Why? Because their chicken was dignifried, that’s why! But I’ll tell ya, compared to this pallid, obsequious cartoon Colonel, the Red Barn rooster was Alistair Cooke.

If I told you that the makers of NyQuil had come up with a line extension called DayQuil, would you believe me? Yes? With that, I rest my case!

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He writes this column to blow off steam, and as a thinly disguised lure to attract clients who may imagine working with him could be a productive and amusing experience. Barry can be reached at (416) 924-5533, or faxed at (416) 960-5255, at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners.

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.