Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bring Me the Head of Charles Schwab

Last week I made mention of my recent trip to the offices of Charles Schwab, where under great duress, I had to divulge all my financials mishaps over the course of my lifetime. While it was painful it was also therapeutic. A way to get my financial house in order and rid myself of the investment demons that have haunted me for years.

We all have inner demons. 

Perhaps those of us in the ad industry have slightly more than others. We pour ourselves into our work, and day after day that work is rejected. Or Frankensteined. Or picked apart by a former sorority girl, who now has a degree in advertising and a junior position with a client but doesn't have a clue as to the contributions of Gossage, Bernbach or Jay Chiat. 

It takes a thick skin to work as a creative in advertising. It takes an even thicker skin to look back at the file of all the great ideas that never got produced. That file seems to grow exponentially. 

Here's where these two paths -- Charles Schwab and year's of unproduced work -- collide. 

In 1999, we, that is TBWA Chiat/Day, were asked to pitch the Charles Schwab account. I love pitching new business. It's one of the rare opportunities to hit an unmitigated home run. You start with nothing, no client mandates, no past faux pas, no limitations. And if you win, you come away with new billings, new opportunities, new ways to start losing the business. 

One of the writers on our pitch team was Mike Collado. I actually wrote about him last week and you can see more of his brilliance here. Mike and his partner Cody, had come up with a breakthrough campaign that I will in no way do any justice to. Sadly the campaign never made it past the front door and the good folks at Schwab never had the opportunity to see it.

But thanks to magic of the blogosphere, you will.

While driving himself home from a three day intensive industry conference, Mr. Schwab falls asleep at the wheel. His car careens off a cliff. And he is decapitated. Miraculously, the head of Charles Schwab, the vessel of all that financial acumen, survives. 

A young couple in a pick up truck stops to investigate the carnage. They find the head of Charles Schwab, rescue him and nurse him back to health with ice and aspirin. In return, he tells them the advantages of a diversified portfolio with a balanced mix of asset allocation. They prosper and have the wherewithal to send their three children to college. 

The story doesn't end there. In subsequent commercials, the head of Charles Schwab travels this great nation of ours, dispensing valuable and actionable financial advice to all those who will listen to this disembodied guru. I don't recall the narrative gymnastics of how the head got from place to place. But it did. And anyone who had it, had the means to secure financial independence.

It was the classic 'talking head' campaign. 
And this one, if you'll pardon the pun, had legs.

Sadly, we'll never know if this would have succeeded or not. But riddle me this, can you tell me about the last Charles Schwab commercial you saw? I'm betting you can't. 

The tagline they use is Talk to Chuck. And in essence it's the same strategy, get great advice by talking with Charles Schwab. But it's sleepy and it doesn't have anything memorable, like a decapitation.

And that's the fundamental problem with today's advertising, not enough decapitations.

1 comment:

Cindy Gallop said...


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