Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Winston Churchill on Advertising.

As long-time readers of Ad Aged know, I am an inveterate and eclectic reader. I read a lot on a lot of different topics. However, when I am feeling a bit untethered in the world (as I am now) I return my focus to Winston Churchill. For all his human-ness, for all his foibles, for all his bombast and bull-headedness, he is one of the great men of history. You could safely say he saved Western Civilization and leave it at that and you wouldn't be far off.

I am reading now "Winston's War: Churchill 1940-1945" by the great historian Max Hastings. (For you Brits, the book was originally published in England as "Finest Years:
Churchill as Warlord 1940-1945.)

In the early days of Churchill's tenure as Prime Minister all seemed lost. France was falling as fast as a house of cards and the Low Countries were overrun as well. The British Expeditionary Force was all but trapped at Dunkirk and near-ready to be annihilated by the Hun.

For all that, the real reason all seemed lost was that people felt all was lost. All of France's generals, of course, and seemingly half if not more of the English government and ruling class felt there was no way to resist German forces. Plans were made to seek peace terms with the Germans.

It seems to me we often face similar situations in advertising. We work for clients who have scant resources and shrinking marketshare. We are fighting against forces that have great momentum and power. They are stealing territory from us and we have no way to resist. To use Sir Alexander Cadogan's words "no communications and no one knows what's going on, except everything's black as black."

Churchill had one weapon when things looked bleak in 1940: Resolve.

That is, he would not surrender to defeatism or anything else for that matter. Churchill resolved that he and his nation would not just fight on, they would find a way to win. Or die trying.

This is the lesson we in advertising can learn from Churchill. Resolve to fight. Resolve to win.

You might go down in flames, but it's better than relegating yourself to creating Facebook pages.

Churchill put it this way, quoting from George Borrow's 1843 prayer for England: "Fear not the result, for either thy end be a majestic and enviable one, or God shall perpetuate thy reign upon the waters."


Dave Trott said...

Sounds like you've just been visited by his Black Dog, George.
Remember what he said, "If you're going through hell, the best thing to do is keep going."

george tannenbaum said...

Yes, Dave, to mix metaphors: The Black Dog is in full flower.

bob hoffman said...

After saving the world, Churchill was kicked out of office.

He remarked, "Success is never final."

A lesson that is particularly poignant in the ad business where so many talented, highly-valued people wind up in the garbage heap.

george tannenbaum said...

That's right, Bob. No good deed shall go unpunished.

Anonymous said...

Untethered. George you sound like a man who dislikes his job. Life is short my friend. Hoffman's point is besides the point. Seek your future before you become cranky and embittered. No risk, no reward. How long have you been laboring on this account?

Fly my man. Go for it.