Last night, Chelsea played Barcelona in the second leg of the European Cup semi-final (I know, I still say linesman as well).
All football followers know the prodigious gifts of the Catalan team.
Those who have played the game, at any level, know how difficult it is to play against teams that pass, pass, pass and pass again, until they eventually pass it into your net. Frequently.
Barcelona are used to keeping the ball for long periods, and playing just outside their opponent’s 18 yard area. They weave intricate patterns in, around and through defences.
They do it beautifully.
Some say they raise the game to a form of art.
At their best, they are bewitching. Artists in boots laced with silk.
But last night was different. The beauty didn’t achieve the result.
Faced with a team unwilling to watch, lie down and applaud, and against a defence that didn’t want to be ‘sold’ this brand of football, they passed, passed and passed again. But couldn’t get through.
On countless occasions they were in a position to shoot from 20 yards, where goal after goal after goal is scored each week in every league, at every level of football, in the world.
Yet no. Shooting is too easy. So they passed to each other - smoothly, silkily, sexily.
Their brand of football must equal beauty. Beauty is intricacy. So pass, pass and pass some more. Until something happens.
Thing is, for most of the game, they were just one 20 yard shot from victory.
But the shot never came. Neither did the victory.
Yes, they produced their art. They looked great. They played as everyone expects them to play.
But they lost.
Passing the ball twenty times when one shot would have brought the win.
I remember the chairman of an ad agency I used to work at bemoaning the amount of ‘pretty shit’ we were producing.
Looked great, high production values, great photography, took time to put together. But where was the direct message?
I also look at politicians in nice suits, with nice accents, in smart TV studios going on about the ‘issues’, but where’s the direct message?
In the last minute of the first half, a Chelsea played found himself 20 yards from goal, shot and scored.
In the last minute of the game, the ball went high and long towards Barcelona’s goal, Chelsea’s centre forward raced straight on past the goalkeeper, and scored.
Faced with an audience who knows your brand and can see how you look, how are you going to get a marketing message to hit home?
Are you going to pass and wait?
Or are you going to score?