Merely seven months in my new-found utopia called Valcuvia, nature is already dulling off the ends of nerves severed by decades of citydom. I’m wrapped tight in it, like chestnuts and ricotta inside a fresh raviolo. In this place there are more wild boar, lime-green lizards and sci-fi fungi than people. More grunts than past participles. More tusks than manicured smiles.
And just as joyously on the human front, more people than adfolk.
Here coppersmiths, stained-glass artists, award-winning goats-cheese makers, foresters, pianists, saxophonists, confectioners, stonemasons, even organ pipe makers, outnumber international hyper-global digital content directors by a trillion to one. More anecdotes than key strategic pillars. More home truths than corporate clichés.
It’s why, despite the fact that I’m the only solitary adman here compared to a million wild boar or scores of master strawberry plant-breeders, Valcuvia is an ad community on par with London or Manhattan. Here, after all, any time of day of night, I can get up, close the rusty iron gate that separates me from the needled teeth of bloodhounds, and go find the very folk I’m supposed to be talking to.
Here is where, right next to my friends and sweethearts, my targets live.
The people who (and this might sound chimpanzee stupid to some), surprisingly-enough, aren’t communications people.
The people who don’t analyse what I write, but for whom I’m paid to write to. To attract and persuade. To take up that two-nights-for-one and all-in breakfast hotel offer. To head for Operto in June. To upgrade to the 257TT. To seduce with the next new fragrance by LoobyLoo.
It’s called snapping out of ad mode, self-worship and in-house assumption, and befriending targets. Not writing postcards to strangers.
It’s one reason why, decades ago, agencies took on insightful waifs and strays from other worlds. Not just colleges. Our targets infused our workplace.
It’s why, just as long ago, I sent my own agency’s youngsters to shadow zookeepers, eat fry-ups with undertakers, meet opera singers and pick asparagus in the pissing rain with farmhands from ten countries.
It’s why the late and greatest John Webster showed his work to the agency cleaners before presenting it to clients.
It’s why I’ll spend as much time over a glass or six with a florist in a nearby bar as crafting a sponsored social post she might just read.
To just discuss, analyse, re-discuss, regurgitate and ruminate what we create with similar-minded members of a closed order is tantamount to incest.
Who, and so what, do we know?
Brothers and sisters, go out in the playground and talk to the others.