Thursday, April 14, 2011

Advertising through the ages.

Many years ago I taught some advertising courses at the School of Visual Arts in New York and for the Boston Ad Club when I worked in Boston. One of the things I tried to do in teaching students to look at and evaluate advertising is to strip decoration from the equation. I wanted to get at the essence of what made an ad good, not merely the trends.

What I did was fairly simple. I went through old awards annuals and photocopied award winning ads from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s. As you can imagine, on the surface these ads had little in common. The same way a Caravaggio might have little in common with a Monet. And Chaucer might have little to do with John Updike.

But as all creatures on earth essentially come from the same microscopic core (read "Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body" by Neil Shubin) all good communications are related.

They have stopping power.
They make a promise.
They are interesting.
They make you think.
They leave you feeling.
They are memorable.

We dress ads, language, photographs, typography differently than we used to. And yes, style matters and style changes. But the essence of what makes a good communication doesn't.