Indulge us if you will, dear reader, with a few minutes of your time as we share a tale that involves a teddy bear, a famous department store, and a frantic dash across central London. But before we get there, we must first travel back to the 1990s for some rather unnecessary context. 

In a previous blog our Creative Director Liam Forrest took a nostalgic look at his professional baptism in the pre-digital marketing era, circa 1994, and the challenges of photo library books, repro houses and pasting text into proofs. It was an era when ideas had time to breathe.  

The truth is, however, that for all the lightning fast transfer rates, trans-Atlantic video calls and hi-res artworking from a laptop of today, we’re often not working much faster. Campaigns still take weeks or months to evolve from initial brief to delivery. Faster communication often just means more input on every call, prolonged rounds of amends, and sometimes projects submitted from agency to client where the people involved at the beginning are working for a different company altogether by the end. 

But for all these slow-burners, there’s a Harrods Bear campaign. 

This last month, our long-standing client Visa contacted us with an urgent challenge. Visa were launching a campaign to target overseas shoppers visiting Harrods this year, with a reminder that paying with Visa was the simplest, easiest and most secure way to shop. 

The brief had all the ingredients of a masterpiece – eye-wateringly tight turnaround time, and a short-handed agency already stretched across multiple projects. 

So we did what any “T-shaped” creative agency would do and holed up in a room with a tray of snacks and our most viscous coffee. A succession of creatives, copywriters and designers took a swing at the brief, but without the feeling of clearing the fence. Account Managers and Client Service directors joined the bullpen. If anyone had been in for an interview that day, they’d have been given a Sharpie and A3 pad, too. 

Of course, when the idea came, it was staring everyone in the face all along.

A teddy bear. A card. A simple tagline. 

Scamped and ready to swagger, the concept was launched towards Visa HQ late on a Friday afternoon. And the client loved it. 

“You are the talk of the office,” came the feedback. Concept approved. 

The next challenge was to take the bear we had already come to love… and shoot it. Luckily, a couple of our CS ninjas were up in London (in Paddington, ironically) on Monday, so we redirected them to Harrods to pick up a bear, couriered it by hand back to the South Coast, and shot it the same day in our local studio. 

To cut a long story short, the finished poster now welcomes arrivals into Heathrow and visitors to Harrods, taking pride of place at both. 

But hey, enough of our yakking. This actually isn’t a story about how happy we (and our client) are with a single campaign. (OK, just a bit). It’s a reminder of a few eternal agency truths:

  • The best work comes when “there’s no such thing as a bad idea” runs out of time. 
  • The hardest part is knowing when you’ve got a winner – and leaving it alone. 
  • Good concepts come from anywhere – from creatives (sometimes) but quite often from planners, freelancers or (in this case) from Client Service.
  • Resourcefulness in the face of emergency is priceless in an agency.