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One of the things that I have always wanted to do with this blog is introduce guest posts and I am pleased to share with you the first one, written by Rupert Davies-Cooke.

Rupert writes at The Writing Habit (www.thewritinghabit.co.uk) He works at Acorn Films (http://www.acornfilms.com/) and also manages a writers group (http://www.theoriginalwriter.com).

If you would like to write a guest post following the ‘music as a soundtrack to leadership’ style please click here.

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Back in the 1980s I was the film editor at the advertising agency Havas Conseil Marsteller in London. Among our accounts was Orangina and in the summer of ‘87 our agency presented the client a storyboard for an animated commercial called ‘The Girl from Orangina.’ Set to the music made famous by Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz in 1964: The Girl From Ipanema with a visual style based on Bernard Villemot’s famous Orangina posters from the 1950s. Everybody agreed that it was a beautiful idea.

The client was impressed and signed the idea off.  Work commenced: the animation company was chosen and briefed and an agent was instructed to negotiate the music rights.  Needless to say, the licensing of the music took longer than the animation.  I forget which animation company was involved, but they progressed quickly.  Soon we had a line test (a simple video of black and white drawings synced against a rough soundtrack).

We worked to a deadline as media was pre-booked and we had to complete the commercial on time. The only fly in the ointment was the length of time it took to negotiate the music usage rights. Back in those days music rights were based either on usage scale (how many times a commercial played on television) or a buyout.

As the black and white line test developed into a full-colour commercial, negotiations on music rights continued.  The Orangina girl walked through the orange heat, with blue palm trees swaying as the music played ‘Tall and tanned and young and lovely, The girl from Orangina goes walking, and when she passes, each one she passes goes ahhh.’ It had that special quality one looks for in great advertising: it wasn’t annoying. We were producing a commercial people would watch again and again.

Everything was going well until the client heard how much the music company wanted for the usage rights. The final figure was a buy-out of £25,000. The client said this was too much. Forwards and backwards went the negotiations, but no one budged. In the agency creative department, we watched in despair as the commercial crumbled before our eyes. The nail in the coffin was the moment we commissioned a new music track to replace The Girl from Ipanema.  It could not sound in any way like the original track.

The commercial was finished, but not as we had hoped. This beautiful, languid, hot, sultry piece of animation had its heart torn out. It was broadcast and forgotten. Maybe one day someone will find it and post it on YouTube. Until then, whenever I hear that great song, I always think of a missed opportunity.

Part of the problem about advertising is the tortuous meddling in the creative process. It is as if the client gets to say ‘You know that car you are making for me? Could you just remove one of the back wheels? I have just looked at my budget, and I can pay for three wheels, but not four’. By this time you have built the chassis and the engine and you explain that if you take that wheel off, the car won’t work, so your client suggests ‘Can’t you use a bicycle wheel instead?’ and you think (but can’t say) ‘Why did you ask me to build a car when I could have built you a beautiful bike?’

Advertising is a team effort, and there has to be a great leader.  Here was a situation where either the agency promised too much, or the client lost sight of his budget.  Maybe the best skill in life is to be a good listener. Everyone in the team wants to do their best, but this is only possible if the boss at the top is the one not doing the talking. I believe only then can he or she make good decisions (and great advertising).

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