Oblique Strategies


My heroes David Bowie and Brian Eno were hugely experimental.  They tried all sorts of offbeat stuff to inspire them to be creative.  One of their favourites was to consult ‘oblique strategies’ cards, which provoked them with weird or contradictory messages and stimuli.  Bowie observed that panic and time deadlines caused people to revert to straight line solutions which were “ordinary but unexceptional”.  Obliqueness was the antidote to this mediocrity.  It is said they were influenced in this by Marshall McLuhan but it’s equally likely they had jumped forward in time and listened to Paul Feldwick.

This oblique approach is a lesson that advertisers have sadly forgotten.  We used to talk of ‘stimulus and response’.  Don’t tell people what you want them to think (an assertion).  Give them a stimulus – an idea, some entertaining content – which allows them to reach the conclusion you envisaged for themselves.

“Don’t tell them you’re funny, tell them a joke”.  Don’t say “this man is dishonest”.  Say “Would you buy a used car from this man?” (Kennedy’s poster impugning Nixon in the 1960 US Presidential election campaign).

Yep, obliqueness, hatstand, kerching

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