I recently went to see the Elvis movie and, dear reader, let me tell by the end my cheeks were wetter than Kentucky rain.
I must admit at this point in the blag I was always a huge fan – I think when he appeared in ‘That’s the way it is’ in his white jump suit I was mesmerised and I would only have been eight or nine. I even had a small white Elvis suit made out of old white sheets that I used to dress up in.
So maybe I was crying for a lot of reasons.
The waste of talent, the exploitation, the miss-management.
I was talking to someone at the weekend about it, explaining that his life was such a tragedy.
How so? came the question. People often see him as just an overweight drug-addicted-wash-out who squandered everything.
If you look at Elvis, this was a man who was given so much talent, he was impossibly handsome and he became the biggest selling artist of all time. And boy could he sing. Even right at the end.
But he was exploited by his manager, a former circus act promoter and illegal immigrant from the Netherlands, who never understood his music, signed him up for 26 movies only three of which were half good, and who latterly put him to work doing two shows a day in a Vegas hotel to pay off his gambling debts.
Elvis’s marriage failed, he was propped up by prescription drugs and died at the tragically young age of just 42 just before he was due to go on tour yet again.
And today you can still see caricatures of him in every Pub, 50th birthday party or Hen night in the world.
But the simple beauty and electricity of what he brought to the world, changed everything.
So what has this got to do with advertising?
Well, it seems that people rarely know a good idea when they see one and mostly, even when they do, they don’t know what to do with it.
The world swooned at Elvis when he first appeared. He was lightning in a bottle.
Then the people who were shaping his career or could see how to make a buck out of him wanted to shape him how they wanted him, not how he should have been. Not how he was first conceived.
There’s a scene in the movie where his manager, Tom Parker (he was no more a colonel than you or I) was trying to get Elvis to do a Christmas TV Special and to please the sponsors he wanted him to sing “Here comes Santa Claus’ in a Christmas sweater.
It was the one time (at least in the movie) Elvis stood firm and that TV show became his ’68 Comeback special. The song that captured his true spirit at that point was ‘If I could dream’.
He repackaged himself in a leather suit and everyone rediscovered the magic.
But like an idea that is truly beautiful and magnetic we often squander what we have.
An idea that deserves to be in stadiums across the world, we put to work in a vegas cocktail lounge.
We can’t help ourselves.
We put it in a Christmas jumper and expect it to have the magic we all recognised when it first flashed in to our consciousness.
And when we’ve had enough of it we discard it and ask another agency to come up with another Elvis and this time faster and cheaper.
And that’s why most new ideas are chiseled away at until they become fat middle aged men in wigs and too-tight jumpsuits singing Suspicious minds in a Chinese restaurant in Hersham.
If you have a truly great idea. Cherish it.
They don’t come around that often.