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Paul the Octopus is full of mussel shit and other advertising lessons as observed from the World Cup

Posted on July 12, 2010 and read 3,824 times

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ignaciocreditpic Paul the Octopus is full of mussel shit and other advertising lessons as observed from the World CupIgnacio Oreamuno
President
ihaveanidea

I watched pretty much every game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, waking up at 7AM to get in as many of the matches as I could. Even when the ihaveanidea team was in Cannes, I made sure to not book important meetings around Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Holland matches. I cried, I screamed, I laughed. I vuvuzelaed. And today when The Netherlands went down to Spain in the Finals, after an entire month of dedicating my life to this ‘peaceful world war’ I realized that like the kids from South Park, I also had learned something today. And everything I learned I could relate to everyday life in advertising. Let the game begin…

1. Shots on goal matter not.

Diego Forlán almost nailed the most beautiful, almost most dramatic, almost most curveous and gorgeous almost goal in the World Cup when he almost tied the 2-3 score against Germany at the last minute in the 3rd place game. In another example, Asamoah from Ghana almost put the entire African continent in the semi-finals ( if it wasn’t for that metal post that got in the way, or the Uruguayan defender that stopped the ball with his hands), and Brazil almost caught that self goal against Holland (if it wasn’t for the defense’s head that shot it in).

Your agency could win all the awards in the world, have the niftiest offices, and the smartest, funkiest ad people with the craziest hair-dos and it still won’t matter. At the end of the day it is only agencies that score, that get new business, that win the game.

Remember the Adidas ad they played incessantly at every commercial break with hooded ‘guru’ Eric Cantona and all the “superstars” looking mysteriously cinematic as a flying Lionel Mesci hovered over the field? None of the actual players in the ad made it to the final, and I think it kinda made the entire campaign look kind of a joke towards the end. Don’t get cocky with your superstars, your history and your old awards.

Spain played a very boring game, they didn’t score many goals and they made watching them play absolutely torture as they passed the ball between themselves and caveman Pujol’ like a tennis game. But they won, and that is what will go down in ink.

 Paul the Octopus is full of mussel shit and other advertising lessons as observed from the World Cup

2. It’s not a ‘fair-tale’.

Every time we have a World Cup the same thing happens, people bitch incessantly over the blatantly obvious mistakes the refs make. I admit Stevie Wonder could probably make better calls, but that’s the brutal reality of life isn’t it? My american friends who are used to the high-end technology used in refereeing decisions in american football argue that soccer should use a similar system to help them nail offsides, goals and other calls properly.

Are you mad? No, no, no! Soccer is like real life, it’s unfair. That’s the beauty of it. All you need is 22 players and a round ball. That’s why billions of people around the world are so passionate about. Hating the refs is part of the sport. Perfect calls would perfectly ruin the game.

So when you pitch, and the client goes for the shitty agency whose CEO golfs at the same club as the client’s CEO, then don’t feel too sore about it. The amazing work your agency does is not going to be enough sometimes. When you lose an award to a campaign that is obviously inferior, remember the no rules of the game. Don’t get sour about it.

 

3. The goal justifies the foul.

screen shot 2010 07 11 at 104739 pm Paul the Octopus is full of mussel shit and other advertising lessons as observed from the World Cup

Players throw themselves through the air in Academy Award worthy fashion, landing on the tarmac, howling like little girls. And then when the ref is not watching plant every spike in their shoes in each other’s calfs? Because it might make or stop a goal, and that’s all that matters.

Paul Lavoie, co-founder of TAXI, once told me a story in which they pitched a client that had asked that all the agencies show creative work at the pitch meeting. All the agencies did. Paul and his team walked in with a white piece of paper and a pencil and said something to the line of “We’re not here to talk, we’re here to listen and solve your problems.” This move was as suave as Paul’s bald shiny head.

Then another creative director told me they were pissed at Paul because they did a pitch against him in which the client had instructed to NOT bring in creative work. Guess what Paul did? Bring in tons of work. And according to the story, he also won that pitch.

Ghana “unfairly” lost to a an Uruguayan hand ball, but on the same coin Uruguay moved on the semi-finals because of that same Uruguayan hand ball (and had their star player win the coveted Golden Boot as well). Nobody remembers the red or yellow cards, only the winners.

4. Your lineup cannot be just forwards.

Maradona’s Argentine lineup was composed primarily of strikers. Instead of balancing out with some mid-fielders specialized in passing and finding opportunities or defense to hold back the opposition, he basically unleashed pit bulls on the field which were only satisfied when they scored goals on the other side. This worked for a while and the opposing teams would break down after 1 or 2 goals. The problem came when the Germans started piercing goals on their offense, boom, boom, boom, boom. 4-0. There was nothing they could do and they were sent back crying to Argentina on the next plane.

If your agency is designed to pitch and win new business and you have your superstar creatives focused on doing “award winning” ads for the cool client and juniors doing the boring layouts for the big client, then you might find yourself with your pants down when the big client$ pull out and leave you with no money to pay for your superstars, by then it will be too late to try to get them to turn around and make work to please the client. Take care of your defense, take care of your existing relationships and your big boring clients. Defense is boring, but without it you won’t take that shiny trophy home.

6. It’s not about how good you play, it’s about how much fun you’re having.

 Paul the Octopus is full of mussel shit and other advertising lessons as observed from the World Cup

The World Cup final, like every other final, was stiff as old oak. Nobody made any great plays, nobody smiled, nobody had fun. Essentially every player received a yellow card, and even the Queen of Spain and Prince of Holland looked bored out of their minds.

The “loser” game between Uruguay and Germany on the other hand was absolutely fantastic. It made me jump, scream and laugh. Why? Because they had nothing to lose. The players let their skills ‘flow’. All of the soccer players in all the teams are fantastic, but it was only the ones that were relaxed who had the best soccer.

So if you are in an agency, and you are not having fun, if you are stressed about your comps, worried about your ideas, furious with your partner, anxious about your career, it’s highly probably that` you won’t be fabricating your best work. Laughing it off, having fun at your job should not be a reward when things are going easy, it should be a mandatory activity when things are going hard.

6. Paul the Octopus is full of mussel shit

He ruined the World Cup for me and made all my teams lose. But Paul’s legacy lies in the fact he reminded me that a great advertising campaign these days cannot be predicted or planned.

I doubt that the people at Oberhausen Aquarium did focus groups to find out if Paul would be a good viral. Before I get my hands on him and make a great ceviche out of him I recommend you print his purple photo and put it your wall so you remind yourself that nobody, not even Octopodidae have the answer to clever advertising.

 Paul the Octopus is full of mussel shit and other advertising lessons as observed from the World Cup





  • Anonymous

    The adidas ad featured David Villa in addition to Leo Messi. Villa was not only a player on the winning team, but also a contender for the golden boot.

    Oh and the hooded guru of whom you speak is Zinedine Zidane.

    Finally, Paul created a great deal of buzz — isn’t that the point? I think yes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vigo57 Victor Vetancourt

    On the other hand, I think the work that Maradonas did, was excellent, because it waked up the essence of the “Fútbol”: Make goals. And also put in practice the best defense for a team, which is attack.
    And well, about the Clairvoyant Paul, I think that he gave the tint that probably needs the public opinion and media to silence the popular vuvuzelas.


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