Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Some contemporary ads from the 1960s and 70s.

There’s a wonderful woman at work who asked me for a favor. She helps run our creative internship program. And since I’m the old man in the mountain, she asked if I’d speak to the interns yesterday morning.

“Sure,” I said.

For all my curmudgeonly-posturing, I’m about the most-agreeable person you’d ever want to meet. I make Florence Henderson look like a prison guard from Sing Sing. “There’s one thing.” I said, “I’m a morning person. For this to work with my schedule, I need to do it at 9:30AM.”

My co-worker blanched at this. “Young people….9:30?” But I stuck to my guns. Surely getting in one day at 9:30 is not like something out of the Gulag Archipelago.

So, I sat at the end of a large conference room table at 9:30 on Monday and waited for the interns to arrive. Most, I’m happy to say showed up on time. They’ll learn, as my daughters have learned, that there’s a great deal to be gained by showing up places early, whether it’s at work or at an auto-mechanic’s. Good things seem to happen while you’re waiting around. What’s more, if your boss is an early-bird, and you are, too, good things follow.

In any event, since it’s been 37 years since I took an advertising class and I have only a slim idea of what’s taught in ad schools today, I decided I’d talk about one of my favorite themes. That is that while styles and techniques change, while channels and ways of delivery change, what makes a good communication doesn’t change.

There are, of course, whole sections of the industry that make their living proclaiming things dead. “People hate interruption,” they’ll say. Or “They don’t believe advertisers.” Or “They’ll have conversations with their friends about brands but they hate advertising.”

That’s fine. And that’s a point of view. But coming on the heels of 110 million people watching commercials last night and talking about them, I’m just not buying it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it till I hang up my MacBook Pro: People don’t hate advertising. They hate boring, insipid, shrill, asinine, crass advertising. Give them something good, funny, unexpected and memorable and they’ll love you for it. Think Skittles. Think Apple. Think Nike. Think Snickers.

There is a killer app in marketing communications: It’s called great ads. Sure, they’re hard to come by. Hard to create, produce, and hard keep your hands off of ‘improving’ them, but nothing works like something good.

I think if you checked in with Michael Dubin, founder of the Dollar Shave Club, who sold his company to Unilever for $1 billion basically on the strength of one or two great commercials, he’d nod with enthusiasm. So would Phil Knight, Steve Jobs and a few other obscenely wealthy entrepreneurs.

OK. I said to my interns at 9:30 this morning. “Today, we’re going to play a little game. I’m going to show you a half dozen commercials from when I was young. You tell me, looking past casting, cinematography and technique, could they have run in last night’s Super Bowl? Are they better than what ran last night?” "Do they communicate clearly?"

The answers according to the interns was “yes,” "yes," and “yes.”

What do you think?


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