Thursday, 13 May 2010

Keep Calm and Carry On !

I was watching an item on ‘The One Show’ recently about the history of a wonderful government morale-boosting poster that simply says ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. Apparently the poster was going to be put in the public domain if Germany invaded England. But because that never happened, every poster was destroyed at the end of the war.

Fast forward many years, a book seller finds the poster in a dusty old pile and is now making a pile by merchandising it !

I adore the clarity of the line. It is simple yet powerful. It is fluid, has no lumpiness and neither can it be mis-enterpreted. In a strange way, the line is vague. But it is it’s vagueness that makes the line feel relevant to everyone who encounters it.

Perhaps that’s why today in our unstable world, people can connect with the ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ line. It is, in effect a perfect strap line. It also reminds us that simplicity is the best way to drive a message home. My last article praised the current John Lewis campaign, but to be honest I have never got my brain round the ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ line. I’m not the only one either. In a completely unscientific survey, I asked a few mates what they felt it meant. Everyone either struggled with explaining it or had to think for a while before saying what they felt it meant. Is it me, but wouldn’t the line be better if it said ‘Never Knowingly Oversold’ ?

A great strap line should not only embody what the brand is all about or means, it shouldn’t require any degree of thinking. Mars ‘Work Rest Play’, Motel 6’s ‘We’ll Leave the Light On’, Martini’s ‘Any Time Any Place Anywhere’, BMW’s ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’. These lines (and many others) are easily comprehended, tight and position the brand beautifully. So why do so many local radio advertisers prefer to adopt some old bollocks that talks about friendly service, free advice and low
prices ? Ah well...

I couldn’t make Vox 2010. But from the pictures and status updates posted on Facebook, it was a good one. Vox has made me think about how Commercial Producers actually communicate with each other. Of course there are a few websites and/or forums for proddies to exchange views, but I am wondering if there is any mileage in creating some kind of national association ? When my company Airforce made TV commercials, we were members of an organisation called ‘PACT’ – the Producer’s Alliance for Cinema & Television’. Our membership was incredibly useful and at times, inspirational . So I am wondering if some sort of association for Radio Commercial Producers would be of any use ?

The commercial production industry appears to keep itself to itself, but it still needs to look after itself to ensure it has a healthy future. By joining together, sharing views, creating goals, minimum standards and above all: looking after each other in my view would do nothing but good for our industry.
Who’s up for looking into this with me ?

John Calvert. Airforce. For Radio Commercial & Radio Advert production, visit

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