Monday, July 9, 2012

Barry Becher, 1941-2012.

Barry Becher died at the end of June, an adman of the sort we in the industry seldom if ever herald. You can read his "New York Times" obituary here. It's the least you can do for a guy who, very likely, kept you amused. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/business/media/barry-becher-a-creator-of-ginsu-knife-commercials-dies-at-71.html?hpw

Becher was the writer of the original Ginsu steak knife commercial. The one that opens with this seminal line of copy: "In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife." This is said as a wooden board is karate chopped in half. "But this method doesn't work with a tomato." At this point a hand karates into mush a plump tomato.

Becher and his partners invented, pretty much, the modern infommerical. Complete with "order now," "but wait, there's more" and "operators are standing by."

It's easy to criticize Becher. His work was dreck. Crass. Tasteless. Ugly.

But it sold product.

He sold $30 million's worth of Ginsu knives alone. And then his company was acquired by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway.

Here's something for the effete in our industry to think about. Someone once asked Becher what "Ginsu" meant in English. He replied, "it means I never have to work again."

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Okay, so I 'm no fan of infomercials. But the navel gazing obsession with awards I think, in a way, is not much better. It is a reaction to the crassness of much advertising. It's a shield. A way to elevate what we do above that which a used car salesman do. Used car salesmen plays a role in the economy. The reality is that advertising people don't rank rank much higher among least respected professions. However, when say Wieden&Kennedy elevates advertising to beautiful film art or hilarious entertainment, awards are a fine thing. When cynical speculation in the ills of the world are exploited for personal fame it's no less crass than the most tasteless infomercial.