Award-winning novelist to tell tales about days as advertising copywriter
Rushdie's advertising career included time in the London office of Ogilvy & Mather, where founder David Ogilvy famously instructed Rushdie and other employees that "the consumer is not a moron, she is your wife".
In between dreaming up possible titles for his novel, Rushdie was also coming up with campaigns for fresh creamcakes ("Naughty but Nice"), Aero chocolate bars ("Irresistibubble") and the Daily Mirror ("Look into the Mirror tomorrow - you'll like what you see").
For "Naughty but Nice", Rushdie says he got his inspiration from watching too much Dick Emery. But the client rejected it because he thought the slogan suggested people would get fat from eating the cakes.
A year after Rushdie left Ogilvy, the idea was dusted down and the client had a change of heart.
"They obviously did a better job at selling my own work to the client than I could do myself," says Rushdie. "There are two skills to being a copywriter - creating the advertisement, and selling it to the client. I was always quite proud of my ability to present my work to the client, but in that case I failed lamentably."
The novelist credits his advertising agency experience for teaching him that writing is not just a craft, it's also a job. "When you are working in an agency and you know the client is coming in, the work has to be ready and it has to be good. It's a very useful frame of mind to get into and it's a discipline that I use when writing my books. I sit down for the day and approach it like an office job, and don't give myself permission to not have a good day."
In Rushdie's view, advertising has changed a lot from when he was a copywriter. "It used to be the case that some products were significantly different to their rivals. But brands can't claim a USP [unique selling point] these days because essentially everyone makes things equally well.
"So advertising people have to add value in other ways, by making the image of the product that bit more attractive compared to its almost identical rival. But what has always worked, and still works, is to create a little hook that lodges in people's minds."
At the end of his working week at Ogilvy, Rushdie always took a long hot bath. "The way in which you use your mind to write advertising is a different process to how you use your mind to write a novel. Having my bath helped me divide the two."