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In the 1970s a leading breakfast cereal manufacturer contacted the then world’s leading advertising agency. The food company needed help promoting their new cereal, so they asked the agency to come up with a plan, which it did.

The budget was £6 million and the publicists promised to “put the new product on every breakfast table in the land”. A bold claim indeed, but they’d do it by hiring the best creative people and scriptwriters, the hottest director and actors for the commercials, premium advertising space in the print media, peak advertising on the radio…

In an industry known for hyperbole, the world’s leading advertising agency exceeded itself with its extravagant pitch.

The leading breakfast cereal manufacturer was impressed. The agency got the business and set to work.

The product was launched amid much hoo-hah and razzmatazz.

It flopped. Six months into the campaign, with dismal sales and surplus stocks of cereal that they’d been unable to sell, the cereal company pulled the plug and demanded an explanation from the advertising men (this was the 1970’s).

They said “We are the most successful advertising agency in the world, and you are its leading manufacturer of breakfast cereal. You have produced a fine new product that the public should have loved.
“We hired the best people, wrote the best advertising copy and the most attention-grabbing scripts. We used top quality media and peak-time radio and TV to promote your product. We did everything right.”

The cereal people protested “So what went wrong?”

“The only problem”, replied the advertising men, “was that the public wasn’t listening.”

Do you think that the agency kept the contract? Of course not.

How is it then, that when we fail to get our message across in daily life, we so often blame the listener?

Disclaimer

The organisations and products described in this post are fictitious. Any resemblance to real companies, past or present, or products, is entirely coincidental.

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