Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

Solving problems — On Stray Dogs and David Abbot’s excellence in advertising

December 1, 2010, 4:20 PM

Browsing around from one article to another on Mike Dempsey’s excellent blog, one poster really knocked me off my chair: an ad done by David Abbot for a RSPCA unwanted dogs awareness campaign back in the 70s (I think):

The reason why this poster struck me so hard is that most Romanian cities have had this problem for decades now, stray dogs wandering around almost everywhere (it actually feels strange not seeing any stray dogs since I’ve moved to London, after being so used to them in Bucharest). Some of them are living on the mercy of various people, becoming something like a neighbourhood’s dog, usually having a rag to sleep on near the entrance of the block of flats where his benefactors live, while others just prey on whatever they can find through garbage. Most of them are beggingly friendly, wagging their tails in hope of a small piece of bread for their backbone-glued stomach, few are aggressive and rarely attack (like in the case of the unlucky Japanese man that died a few years ago after being bit by a stray dog).

Anyway, the above poster shows yet again how effective good advertising can be, as I’m sure something like this would have great impact even with the ever-untrusting and uncaring-enough Romanians. But unfortunately, Romanian advertising is just as bland and afraid of shocking — therefore delivering the message — as the people that it’s meant for (and I’m ashamed to say that some of that social-numbness has rubbed off on me as well — hopefully, living in the UK will cure that in time). Problem-solving advertising (and design, too) has become rare these days, as the majority seems to be much more interested in following trends and looking / talking just like the competitors. Those that dare stray from the well-known path are usually labeled as fools and booed in public (Wolff Olins seem to enjoy this, though :) ).

I’d really love to see this kind of bold ads in Romania (and not only), as there are so many problems that people need to wake up to. But the brave ones to approve such work are yet to come.

You should definitely read Mr. Dempsey’s beautiful article about David Abbott’s career: David Abbott, A Man of Letters. There are a few other great ads to see as well, and his career is truly inspiring.