The specifics of fame - how famous do we need to become, and why?

I was asked to talk about challengers and fame the other day. So I spoke about the time we’d had the chance to interview the great Robbie Brozin, one of the founders of Nando’s, originally in South Africa. He said that when they started they could only afford to run each ad once. So they needed it to have the same impact from running once as if it had run 10 times. Which meant that each ad needed to create its own fame.

I love the specificity of that as a brief. Not ‘we need to break through’, or ‘we need to be creative’, but ‘we need it to have the same impact from running once as if it had run 10 times’.

So Nando’s and their agency started producing ads that they could be confident would get talked about, even if they only ran once. Which has led to a rich tradition of brilliantly controversial advertising, like this:

And this:

But the thing about brilliantly controversial advertising is that it doesn’t always survive the scrutiny of the Advertising Standards people. Which is why, according to local legend, Nando's would buy their media spots (this is at a later stage, when they had a bit more money) to start on a Friday evening, after the local advertising standards office had closed. They wouldn’t bother booking ads past Monday because they knew they would be banned. They would have 48 hours of buzz and scandal before the office would re-open and a letter would arrive, telling them that their ad was in breach and must be pulled.

Robbie told John Hunt, the Creative Director of their ad agency (Hunt Lascaris, now part of TBWA) "Make yourselves famous on the back of us".

I wonder how often clients say that to agencies these days. And I wonder how often we are specific enough, as challengers in exactly how famous we need to be, and why.

Challenger enthusiast, father of twins, mild pencil fetish. Adam Morgan is the founder of eatbigfish and The Challenger Project. His latest book 'A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages', is out now.

OpinionAdam Morgan