Do it like Stu!

When measuring an idea there is only one time that we get close to being the consumer and that is the first time we hear it. Only one chance. Don't be making notes, measuring if it could win an award, looking for negatives or second-guessing the boss. Do it like Stu, just listen.

When measuring an idea there is only one time that we get close to being the consumer and that is the first time we hear it. Only one chance. Don’t be making notes, measuring if it could win an award, looking for negatives or second-guessing the boss. Do it like Stu, just listen.

Stu Dryer was the ad manager at Rowntree for many years. We met over 30 years ago when I started my long run at a new company called Ogilvy & Mather. Stu could not only spot a good idea but also recognized that it was a ‘campaign’ idea, even when you didn’t. In a few short years he approved ‘Red Ones Last,’ ‘We all Know where the Rainbows Go,’ ‘Have a Kit Kat, Have a Snack’ and the killer of all time: ‘How do you like your coffee? Crisp!’ (The last two were Fred Hollett creations.)

So, here’s my story. I had just caused a lot of fuss at O&M because I had moved down to the account floor to sit next to the guy who handled all my GF brands. His name was Paul Carder. Not many people on the creative floor, or in New York, thought it made sense, but it did to me. And, it was possible then because we didn’t work as writer/art director teams.

One day, I was gazing at a bunch of words rolled into a Smith Corona when a face peeked into my office.

Holy crap!!! It was a client. Not a brand manager, but the effin’ ad manager himself.

‘What’s happening on Smarties?’ he asked.

‘You’re not supposed to be on the Creative Floor.’ I said.

‘You are.’ he said.

Different approach was needed.

‘I don’t have anything.’

‘Yes you do, what is it?’

‘Not enough yet, just some words.’

‘What kind of words?’

‘A jingle actually.’

‘Sing it, so I can at least have a laugh.’

(My tone-deaf musicality was famous.)

‘Close the door.’

He did. I started. ‘When you eat your Smarties…etc.’

Stu did a Mount Rushmore.

Then he gritted his teeth.

‘Jeezus! My underwear just crept up me arse.’

‘Is that good?’ I asked.

Stu reached across my desk and dialed.

‘Give me Ken Brown.’ he said. (Ken was president of Rowntree.)

‘Ken, it’s Stu. Here’s your new Smarties campaign.’ and he handed me the phone. ‘Do it again.’ I did then handed the phone back to Stu. ‘Great, eh? Thanks.’ He hung up, smiled and left the office.

‘But what about the pictures? It’s TV.’

He never answered, but I did hear him start to whistle.

I had thought about Smarties being a rainbow, or the sound they made in the box, but one day I saw a little girl take a red Smartie, lick it and use it like lipstick.

That moment and a guy named Stu Dryer made my career. He listened. He heard. He saw. He was both consumers, the one who bought it and the one who ate it.

He didn’t say: ‘It’s too advertisey.’ Or, ‘You gotta keep them guessing to the payoff.’ Stu was brave enough to react with his emotions.

If you want great campaigns, then put down your pen, empty your brain and give the idea a great big, open-hearted listen. Do it like Stu.

Gary Gray and Paul Carder founded Carder Gray Advertising. Gray created their slogan: ‘In the Business of Advertising.’ (Some creatives have never forgiven him.) He preaches this philosophy to postgrad students at Humber College.