Monday, December 4, 2017

My advertising heroes. Part 2 in a sporadic series.

Last week, staring into the creative abyss all writers, at times, face, Rob Schwartz, CEO of TBWA\Chiat\Day suggested I write a series of posts about some ad luminaries—who either inspired me, or did work that helped define the industry.

Today’s post is more about inspiration than seminal work, because it features work by my father, Stan Tannenbaum. 

My old man escaped from West Philadelphia’s Jewish ghetto through advertising—a hot profession in the 1950s. He first went to work for his brother, Sid Tannenbaum, who ran an agency in Philly called Weightman Advertising. 

From Weightman my old man worked across river from Philly, in Camden, NJ where the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was based. Then, in 1954, he moved to the ‘big time.’ To New York, where he joined a top-ten agency called Kenyon & Eckhardt.

My father spent the lion’s share of his career there—and rose from copywriter to Chairman of the Board. His work, to be honest was never as “creative” or award-winning as the best work of the day. Nevertheless, he was my father, and there’s something to be said for that. I think. 

My old man’s first spot is, of course, dated. But a classic side-by-side comparison--and for the time, a dramatic one.

The Brylcreem spot shows a side of my father I happily glommed onto--his glib turn of a phrase. 

In this case Brylcreem's tagline entered the vernacular, "A little dab'll do ya." Which, really, father notwithstanding, ain't bad. 

Finally, an ad for Macleans toothpaste. For years, my father's work for this brand was dull and, yes, insipid. However, this spot, created amid the cultural and creative revolution in the 1960s when its effects had filtered down to even the most "package-goodsy" of agencies, is not without its sex-appeal and wit.

Like my old man himself, it's actually not half bad.

In Homer’s Odyssey, which I read as painters paint bridges, finishing one end only to start immediately over again at the other, Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom says, “Few sons are the equals of their fathers. Most fall short, all too few surpass them.”

Certainly, when it comes to making money and acquiring lofty titles, I didn’t equal my father. However much I’ve fallen materially short, I’ve been able to surpass the old man in career longevity. This week, I will complete my 60th circle of the sun and I believe I am doing the best work of my long career—and more of it, more quickly.

None of that’s important here. Just an observation about fathers and sons.

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