avagoodweegend : the story behind it

It may have been fun but there was a serious side to it all in those heady days. We Creatives, whilst being paid rather handsomely, were expected to deliver. The Client expected it of the Agency and the Agency expected it of us. Only successful concepts or campaigns ensured you stayed in the game. The Suits were equally anxious to have you succeed, because without a pertinent idea to sell to the Client they were staring down the barrel of another career.

I was fortunate to have a number of successful campaigns in what consequently went on to become a very long career. I earned my fun.

The best known among my campaigns had its origins back at a time when I had just arrived in Sydney, from my home in the Fiji Islands by way of a year or so in London. I had what was called a cadetship with the Shell Company of Australia, starting in the Shipping Department. My first good friend there was the lift driver. His name was Eric. He had only one arm. He introduced me to Alma’s bar, a cosy hideaway down Wynyard Lane in behind Wynyard Station.

Here, every Friday as six o’clock closing approached people would leave the bar and call out to each other something totally unintelligible to my ears. Then, on Monday morning others would greet each other with roughly the same bit of gobbledygook. But gobbledygook it remained to me. And it did, for at least three weeks.

Until one Friday evening when I solved it! Wildly excited, I turned to my mate Eric and announced: “I’ve got it Eric. They are saying ‘Have a good weekend’ and on Monday they are saying ‘Did you have a good weekend?’”

But of course they weren’t. They were saying ‘avagoodweegend’ on Fridays and ‘djavagoodweegend’ on Monday mornings.

The response was typically Eric. Lifting his glass of rum to his lips, whilst avoiding the cigarette that still hung there (I never knew how he did that) he replied laconically: “Yeah?”

Some years later, at McCann’s, I was handed the problem of a product called Aerogard. Once a best seller in the personal insect repellent market its sales were going down faster than Louie the Fly; a victim of Mortein which was another Samuel Taylor product. There were thoughts, we were told, of removing Aerogard from the market. We had one shot at saving it.

It seemed to me that I had seen a lot of Aerogard at friends’ places here and there. So I snooped around to see if I was right. My first clue to the real problem was revealed when I unearthed a can of Aerogard in a friend’s kitchen cupboard; with a price sticker still on it. That sticker showed the price in long extinct shillings and pence!

So the challenge became not so much to have people buy the product but to use the product they had bought. We needed to urge them to remember the Aerogard. It would be obvious that the greatest opportunity for that usage would be over the weekend. There was the clue!

The initial campaign was on radio because the Aerogard budget wouldn’t stretch to television anymore. Each spot began with the enquiry, from a mix of people in different circumstances through the campaign: ‘djavagoodweegend?’ The common response always was that flies and insects had buggered up their break. The solution was then provided: “avagoodweegend –   remember the Aerogard.”

And, just for the record, ‘avagoodweegend’ never began with a capital. All in lower case, it looked stunning right along the sides of buses. The campaign soon moved to some serious television exposure, to the delight of the Agency, and the product remains on the market to this day. The avagoodweegend line, too, to my great delight has survived over many years and many more campaigns.

It did my career no harm but it nearly didn’t happen. Earlier in my career I had presented this concept in a series of posters for Kleenex tissues. Just how this was pertinent to that product I can’t recall. Anyway, they didn’t buy it. Again, lucky me!

There is a sequel to this story. When the campaign moved to television I naturally sat down and wrote a series of avagoodweegend scripts. And this led to an almighty row with a certain Very Senior Suit, who will remain unnamed except for the nickname The Silver Fox.

Silver Fox was adamant that we must present Client with a fresh idea. To put up my series of avagoodweegend commercials, he insisted, would indicate that we hadn’t any new ideas. No protest on my part, that we would be mad not to chase the success of the established campaign, would move him. As he was entitled to do he briefed no less than four other writers and grudgingly conceded that I could have another try if I had another idea in me – but no avagoodweegend. So I sat down and came up with an alternative.

That alternative involved a simple little cartoon character walking alone towards camera on a blank screen. He reacted violently and I’d hoped amusingly to attacks by flying biting things – before the arrival of Aerogard. I didn’t even sneak in a mention of avagoodweegend.

I remember only the opening lines. “This is Joe who didn’t know/ a quite peculiar little chap/ when out of doors he met with scores/ of flies and insects – things like that/ Biff! Pow! Splat! Zap!”  Sophisticated stuff you’ll agree.

Came the day of the presentation; and here I will mention a name. Andrew Caro, then of Samuel Taylor, was the Client. He was what all good Clients should be. Intelligent, experienced, honest, courageous and of strong opinions that were usually proven to be correct. I’m proud to say he was a mentor and often supporter of mine. Much later he was to ring me from London to tell me not to do anything on cricket until I heard from him – but that’s another story.

There we were; five writers around the table when Silver Fox brought The Client in. I think he was a little surprised at the numbers. The presentations began. Client was less than impressed by the offerings and in fact was visibly becoming annoyed until finally he tossed the last but one effort over his shoulder and looked at me. I launched into my “little Joe who didn’t know” effort. He cut me short. “Come on Peter. Enough of this rubbish! Where’s the avagoodweegend script?

The look on the face of The Silver Fox was a picture. Here we all were, up the creek and he’d told me not to bring the paddle. However, on a hunch I had brought along my rejected avagoodweegend efforts. I read them to a happy Client and we went on to produce them. I don’t remember that The Silver Fox ever thanked me.

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