1st July 2019

Taxi for Artemis!

The bonkers & brilliant approach to marketing financial services.

A gloriously bonkers and imposingly larger than life fellow engaged me in a rip roaring conversation this week in the design studio which begged me to pen an admiring blog. What could have sparked such adoration? Why, a gloriously bonkers and imposingly larger than life marketing campaign which has over many years seeped into our collective consciousness and charmed us all. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to lovingly reminisce about the merits of Artemis Fund Managers and their ‘Profit Hunter’ campaigns.

They seem as old as time but also awkward and ‘out of time’. This type of marketing should be dead as a dodo, it shouldn’t work, but somehow it does, it simply doesn’t belong in the modern world of communications, it has no contemporary cutting edge, but it’s gloriously distinctive and, implausibly, it’s engagingly disruptive and is a brand that you now simply cannot imagine being anything other than what it is. As a creative I simply wouldn’t relish the task of trying to follow what has gone before with anything new. It would take a sugar rush of biblical proportions simply to kick-start the brainstorming session for that project.

It would be almost ludicrously tough to sit down and create a campaign this distinctive and awkward, this singularly striking. It feels wrong somehow, but sooooo right. The style of illustration is not particularly refined or elegant. The iconic character of the bird? It’s just not clever, it’s not pretty, it’s jagged and ugly but it totally works – and I’m stumped. It doesn’t make sense.

I believe a significant part of the success of these campaigns in raising the public profile of Artemis has been the ‘neglected’ power of taxi advertising. That’s where I first encountered these ads. The clumsy, wordy, imposing ads intruding into the casually offensive chat from the driver. Your distracted brain wrestles with two confusing conundrums; 1) “Did he REALLY just say that?”………2) Did Artemis REALLY just say that? But, once again, it works and it’s genius.

Honestly, how many times have you sat in a taxi and had your eyes glaze over looking at the seat ads, how many do you remember? Truly appalling ads for any number of non determined companies shouting at you in silence. But you can’t forget the profit hunter ones. Why?

It’s the effectiveness of their appropriation of storytelling, it’s the craft and charm in every inch married to the naive illustration, that’s where the core power of these lies. They hark back to a different age, touching the memories of familiar stories we all held dear, Kipling, Quatermain, Indiana Jones, all channelled in a loving homage. Such romantic notions of adventure and of seeking and discovering are simply irresistible. However much we grow up and whatever the suit we wear, there’s an excitable child inside us all that melts with excitement when faced with that spirit of adventure and silliness. It’s the power of emotive connections and, harnessed properly, this is what touches and engages and charms. That’s where campaigns go from good to great but you can only fully realise work like this if the client has a spirit of adventure every bit as bold and daring as the adventurers in the ads.

Over ten years ago, Artemis Fund Managers spotted a poster for ‘Bottle of Britain’, a campaign for Spitfire Premium Ale. They saw something of themselves in the quirky humour and so, reflecting the company’s bold entrepreneurial culture, the ‘Profit Hunter’ campaign was born. As Artemis Managing Director Dick Turpin put it, “our agency held a mirror up to us and reflected our best side”.

The ads polarised opinion at launch, but it’s now one of the most famous and recognisable campaigns in the sector. The creative idea is used throughout Artemis’s communications and has proved hugely successful as a builder of brand, driver of business and point of pride for Artemis.

I tried this week to imagine the pitch from the agency. How bold and brave that must have been to stand and sell that idea, the conviction behind it must have been epic.

And it’s in that relationship of client and agency where both think the unthinkable, take a truly bold approach, believe in the brand and go completely against convention where magic happens. It’s creatives and clients challenging each other, building a relationship of trust.

We all ‘Profit’ from that.