Do you watch Mad Men? Normally I don’t. Yes, I know, it’s very well written and well made. But I’m usually too busy writing copy myself to watch others writing it.
Anyway, last week I did catch a bit of an episode. I was gripped. Copywriters Paul and Peggy had come to a creative review in their boss, Don’s office. And Paul had arrived empty-handed. He hadn’t cracked the brief to create a campaign that would get people to send more telegrams. (This was at a time when the telegram market was being killed off by the telephone call.)
Don was annoyed, and demanded an explanation. Paul said he had had a great idea and then forgotten it. What? I expected Don to throw him out the window. Or at least out of his office, as my old boss would have done. But do you know what Don did? He just said, “I hate it when that happens.”
Come on, Don, I thought, get real. Yes, all of us feel like that when we’ve had what we thought was a great idea and then forgotten it. But as an experienced creative, you should know: you don’t forget a great idea. You just don’t.
Apparently Paul forgot his in a drinking bout, and couldn’t recall it when he was sober.
I’d say, look Paul, if that idea really had been any good, it would have come back from oblivion and knocked you on your head.
I think Paul may have had an idea like the one we have in the middle of the night. Half awake at 4:30am we think it’s brilliant. Then, the next day, we’ve forgotten it. Either that or we find the bit of paper we wrote it on and see it for what it is: crap.
Luckily for Paul, Peggy remembered an interesting thought he’d mentioned to her; words of wisdom from China: “the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.”
That sparked a creative interplay between her and Don, which culminated with him saying: “You can’t frame a telephone call.” (As you can a telegram.)
Now there’s an idea you won’t forget.