One swallow does not a bummer change

I had a chat with Mark Denton yesterday.

For some reason I thought his early-nineties uberagency, Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow and Johnson, was a massive hit from the second it opened its doors.

Mark soon disabused me of this notion, explaining that they were fuelled by the not very massive budgets of Greenpeace and Luncheon Vouchers (do they still make those?) for ages until Nike arrived in the middle of year four.

Then they started making ads like this:

And went on to win awards for (I quote Mark) 87% of their clients, creating my impression of SPDC&J as an agency of great success.

This led me to ponder agencies and how their most famous image dominates any other time in their history.

For example, VCCP has been producing a fair amount of award-winning work for the last few years. However, most still think of it as the dull O2 place of the mid 2000s whose first boast on its website was that its work would always be produced on time.

Equally, when I freelanced at Lowe a couple of years ago I simply could not get it out of my head that this was the great home of Stella, Reebok, Tesco and the like. It had changed somewhat (for a start, none of those accounts were there), but for me it was still Lowe.

Grey are better than they used to be, but for many they are still Grey in name and nature. McCann’s produced some great work a few years back, but they were still thought to be crappy old McCann’s (and seem to have returned to that state). Despite wonderful work for Citroen and Dulux Euros remains in my mind as a place that is large, boring and poor.

I remember David Abbott once saying that you can live for three years off a good piece of work. When the 1000 days are up you’d better have produced another cracker, or people will start to think it’s a fluke.

I think that rule holds for many other impressions, particularly our first ones.

We compartmentalise brands, people, agencies etc. because it makes life easier, but that also means it’s hard to shunt any of these from one compartment to another.

An interesting lesson for any start-ups out there.