Holeproof solution for nation in waiting: onwards and upwards, with trust

The fight for hearts and minds seems to have been settled decisively at last. But it's still not quite over for Charlie's 92-year-old dad, who has had a bit of a problem with a faulty aorta valve.

The fight for hearts and minds seems to have been settled decisively at last. But it's still not quite over for Charlie's 92-year-old dad, who has had a bit of a problem with a faulty aorta valve.

The old ticker is a complex thing to us ordinary folk, but as the sturdy nonagenarian sat in front of the heart specialist who was explaining in detail what was going on in the vital organ and what he was going to do about it, Charlie's dad suddenly realised that he felt a lot better when he didn't try to keep up with the flow of technical language and just answered his own simple question: Do I trust him? "Yes" was the immediate answer, and now he is keen to get on with it.

Not a bad lesson for most things in life. We humans have a way of overcomplicating things by overthinking them. The advertising industry is built on this realisation.

I remember sitting through a two-hour presentation by Holeproof's chief engineer as he described the technical specifications of the socks that he'd invented on his computer to defy the laws of physics. Instead of a single band of elastic around the top of the sock that cut off the circulation and fell down anyway, he elasticised the whole lower leg section of the sock: snugger on the leg, better for the heart beat and a great thing for Holeproof's balance sheet if it worked. But it was a very long and boring presentation.

"'Ah," our researcher Louise says. "That's where 'put a sock in it' came from!"

I had attended the presentation with Lionel Hunt, possibly the greatest advertising copywriter of the past 30 years. On the way back to the office I said to Lionel "I think we should do TV instead of magazines". He said, "Yes - can you make it 60 instead of 30 seconds?" So much for media planning, but between us we got it right. A week later Lionel presented the commercial which had a puzzling Isaac Newton tossing an apple in a waiting room and then jumping up and down without his socks moving south. The line was "socks that fall upwards". Said it all - but simply and with great effect, and it was a tearaway success.

It was the same in 1972 when the pulse of the nation was expressed by the Labor Party's "It's Time" campaign. And three years later the Liberals under Malcolm Fraser came back into power, saying "after three years of Labor darkness, turn on the lights". The only problem, according to some, was that when Fraser got to the Lodge he couldn't find the switch.

A killer line can bring big rewards. Remember John Howard saying of Kim Beazley "he hasn't got the ticker"? Not like Charlie's dad, who heads for the operation this coming Wednesday and will emerge triumphant. Boy, has he got a ticker.

Bill Clinton took the pulse of the nation and swept to power in the US 1992 with his motto "It's the economy, stupid". And that was the end of the first George Bush.

And in the world of sport, Nike found the heartbeat of everyone who pulls on a pair of track shoes, professional athletes and backyard cricketers alike with "just do it".

And so now we look to Canberra for new leadership in a new government, back with great exuberance. After the endless chatter of the wearying campaign, we don't need all the technical details, but we do need clear communication about a well-paced introduction of promised action that inspires trust. Just like the 92-year-old that trusts his heart surgeon.

But the words must match the deeds. Just talking about being methodical isn't the same as being methodical. Saying that a government is governing for all Australians no matter who you voted for is not the same as releasing some bipartisan strength across the country.

This is a moment that is full of potential but it can be achieved only if there is a high level of trust (there is that word again), going both ways - people trusting government and government trusting people. Do that and we will have a country that falls up, not down.

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