One evening many years ago, I was in the BMP creative department.
A very stressed head of media came round.
He said: "Dave, I can’t find anyone else to ask, do we want to buy a million pounds of 48-sheet posters?"
I said I dunno, it depends, what client are they for?
He said: "I don’t know yet, but I just got a phone call: Mike Yershon is buying up all the 48-sheet posters. If we don’t buy now we’ll miss out. I need an answer quick."
He didn’t need to say who Mike Yershon was.
Everyone knew he was the best media director in town at the best agency in town, CDP.
Mike did things other people hadn’t thought of yet, and the rest of us just had to try to catch up later.
Now Mike was buying every 48-sheet poster he could get his hands on.
And our head of media thought we should buy them too, just because Mike was doing it.
For people who don’t remember, before Mike Yershon there weren’t any 48-sheet posters.
Except for a few special sites, all posters were 16-sheets: smaller, upright posters.
That all changed when Mike Yershon went to CDP.
They were launching the Ford Capri II and wanted to make it a really special event.
So instead of running a 30-second TV commercial (as most agencies would), they chose to run a two-and-a-half-minute commercial.
No-one had ever done anything like that before.
And instead of single-page ads (like most agencies would), they chose to run double-page spreads.
Mike saw the DPS and immediately said: "That shape suits the car better, let’s do the posters the same shape."
Mike knew the poster owners had begun experimenting with putting three 16-sheet posters together to form a single 48-sheet poster.
So he ordered 4,000 of the new 48-sheet posters.
Which meant they had to find many thousands of 16-sheet posters to put together.
It was a logistical nightmare.
But when it was done, it was a massive success.
In fact, Mike got two of his clients, Gallaher and Whitbread, to agree to CDP starting a company specialising in 48-sheet posters.
But Gallaher also had JWT as an agency, so they asked CDP and JWT to start the new poster company together.
They called the company Portland.
They had a staff of 16 going around the country checking out poster sites.
None in bad condition, none badly lit, none down back alleys, none with trees in front, none facing the wrong way.
Only the best poster sites were good enough for Portland.
Which helped make CDP’s work more attractive than anyone else’s.
Which helped make CDP more attractive to new business.
Which helped make CDP the best agency in the world.
Which is why years later, when Sir Martin Sorrell bought JWT, he also bought CDP’s share of Portland.
He renamed it Kinetic, and today it’s the biggest outdoor media company in the world.
All because Mike Yershon understood media better than anyone else.
Media isn’t about the number of impressions you make.
Media is about the power of the impression you make.
Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three
(This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk)