The most fascinating thing about a new book on great ads that never
saw the light of day - Best Rejected Advertising from Berlin Press - is
the reason given in each case for the rejection. Some of them offer
absorbing insights into the vagaries of clients. For instance, the
Protestant Church in Germany, with its nimble client decision-making
committee of 40 people, turned down Ogilvy & Mather’s screamingly funny
variation on a piece of Biblical text from St Matthew’s gospel (’I am
the God of vandals, skinheads, tramps, punks, junkies, whores and
terrorists’) for fear that the Church would be portrayed in ’too
positive a light’.
Similarly, a German online law firm turned down Jung von Matt’s ads
(photos of wealthy men deep-sea fishing, playing polo, polishing classic
cars, and the line: ’Do not distract your lawyer from his hobby with
things you can get more simply and less expensively from us’) because it
risked being ’too conspicuous and too successful’.
Other rejections were more excusable. The German cigarette maker,
Ronson, turned down a humourless attempt at an international poster
campaign (a drawing of fish bones with the text, ’Fish have bones’; a
drawing of a peeing dog, ’Even dogs have to pee’).
There is plenty of innocent fun to be had from reading between the lines
of the official explanations given for the rejections, for even though
careful draughtsmanship has gone into their composition, you can still
picture the creatives’ tears of rage and frustration dripping onto the
page. A few examples: ’The client approached another agency and work was
produced to a similar theme’; ’Co-operation partner and Kellogg could
not agree on funds for a common advertising project’; ’The launch of the
brand was delayed by two years’.
And boo to the Belgian vodka client, Kremlyovskaya, - right, who’s ever
heard of them? - who turned down a series of press ads showing young
trendies with, variously, a black eye, split eyebrow and bloodied nose.
One gulp, glass thrown over the shoulder, oops. And the line was:
’Always stand next to friends of Kremlyovskaya. Never behind them.’ The
client said: ’To be honest, we liked the campaign, but we didn’t have
the courage to use it. No pre-test in the world would convince us that
it would work.’ Surely those ads deserved to change even the most
conservative of minds?
Reading this book reminds you once again of an ancient truism. With many
of the great advertising success stories the client never bothered
testing the work. Meanwhile, the work that has us falling off our chairs
in amazement at its ineptitude has, invariably, been tested to within an
inch of its life.
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This article was first published on Campaign