Many years ago, on vacation in England, I was on the train heading up to London when I came upon an ad in the Times of London Sunday supplement.
It was for Elsenham Marmalade and it struck me as extremely dull.
The ad showed a jar of the stuff and the copy said it was great, blah, blah, blah.
This ad was really dead on arrival.
It struck me that Elsenham was selling a profoundly English product loaded with meaning and rich associations, and yet all they could come up with was a boring product shot and some bland copy.
I started thinking about how I would handle the advertising if the Elsenham account were mine, and as the train rumbled along towards Charing Cross station, I came up with the following campaign . . .
We'd run three, full-page color ads in weekly rotation. Each one would
feature an instantaneously identifiable, absolutely quintessential Englishman or woman. Two that came to mind immediately were the great English football player Bobby Charlton and the actress Maggie Smith.
In all ads, the celebrity is sitting at a beautiful breakfast table with a classic, bountiful English breakfast spread out before them. There's bacon, bangers, fried eggs, fried tomato, kippers, baked beans, toast -- in other words (to mix cultures) the whole enchilada.
The only thing not on the table is marmalade. So the famous English person in the photo, let's say Maggie Smith, isn't happy. In fact she's irate! She's banging her fist on the table and angrily looking to camera, stating with real intensity:
"For my English breakfast, it's Elsenham or else!"
In the body copy she explains that the English breakfast is a great institution but it's incomplete, inauthentic, and just not the real thing unless there's Elsenham on the table. Elsenham is what makes a classic English breakfast, English.
"It's Elsenham or else!"
The point is, the campaign's great virtue is that it fully leverages the product's emotional content. Its appeal is not based on mere claims about flavor or ingredients. Instead, it associates the product with a deep sense of Englishness and gives Elsenham a cultural, iconic status.
Anyway, by the time I got to London, I had the whole campaign written in my head, my heart was racing with excitement, and I was all set to go!
The only thing I lacked was a client.
Now, twenty-five plus years later, I have many clients of my own and the copywriting ideas I have are not merely consigned to my imagination. Instead, they see the light of day and are produced in media of all kind.
Lots of high tech.
Very little marmalade.