Some years ago I wrote a paper entitled, ‘The Culture’s not just in the Yoghurt’ in which I attempted to explain to agencies the missing ingredient in campaigning. What I wrote was decried as utter nonsense and it was dismissed as “Voodoo” by one agency MD. What I said was that most campaign’s fail because the creators never consider an organisation’s culture and as a consequence its ability to live the campaign’s message.

Today it is proven time and time again, and while some agencies have now finally got it, somehow a number of less studious organisations still don’t understand the damage they do to themselves and the client.

By ‘living the message’, I mean being able to fulfill the promise of a campaign, and to action what the agency says the company will do. The perfect example happened some years ago when one of our banks came up with a campaign entitled, ‘We’re Listening’. The trouble was, they were not listening and they never could. Their culture was developed around the usual bank arrogance, and listening wasn’t high on their list. It evidenced itself in various ways but believe it or not, a fellow copywriter told me of his experience and it’s just typical of how culture kills great campaigns.

He marched into his ‘Listening’ bank to deposit funds only to be faced with one long line and three empty teller booths with signs, which said “Sorry not today chum” (or words to that effect). After some 20 minutes he was served and suggested to the teller that it might be a good idea if they opened another teller station. He was not to politely told in a very parental response, that “People do need to take lunch you know!” Culture in action I’d say!

Undeterred, my colleague decide he’d complain via a form lodged in the perspex flyer holders called ‘Tell us what we’re doing wrong’. This was less than successful as he discovered that not one single bank pen was working, and two were so chain short you had to be a circus performer to write anything at all.

Being a creative sort of a chap, my colleague went next door to an opposition bank and filled the darn form out in their premises, where he observed no queues, no stress and every teller station occupied.

Yep, you got it in one; no prizes for guessing who he banks with today.

If you claim to be listening and all evidence is to the contrary, the perception is you’re making phony promises – and perception’s soon turn to reality if the so-called promise becomes a lie to serve an end.

Culture is powerful, it is transparent and it’s very real. So if you make a campaign promise make sure the culture of your organisation is reflected in that promise and if it doesn’t don’t proceed.

‘The Culture is definitely not just in the Yoghurt’