Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Talking with the advertising giants

The following is a reprint of the Ad Nauseam column which appeared in the July 1, 2008 edition of the Metaverse Messenger

Ad Nauseam
By Holman Tibbett

For a change of pace I’ve rounded up the most famous and respected names in the history of advertising for a panel discussion of the nature, philosophy, and methodology of good marketing.

The fact that almost all of them are dead is an added bonus since it means they can’t sue me.

We’ll begin with Michael Maynard, Chair of the Department of Advertising at Temple University. Sir, what would you say is the essence of advertising?

“Advertising is the poetry of Capitalism.”

Really? That’s rather high praise. Bruce Barton, you were chairman of BBDO back in its heyday, would you agree with Mr. Maynard?

“Advertising is of the very essence of democracy.”

How do you figure?

“An election goes on every minute of the business day across the counters of hundreds of thousands of stores and shops where the customers state their preferences and determine which manufacturer and which product shall be the leader today, and which shall lead tomorrow.”

Okay, I guess you have a point there. What about you, David Ogilvy? Do you think advertising is as exalted as your companions?

“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.”

Well, that sounds down-to-earth. Let’s move on to our next question: “What is the most important element to making an ad successful? Dr. Charles Edwards? We’ll start this round with you.

“The more facts you tell, the more you sell. An advertisement’s chance for success invariably increases as the number of pertinent merchandise facts included in the advertisement increases.”

Facts? In the industry known for lying? I’m sure that while they may add value to an ad, the ad’s style is at least equally important. You’d agree, wouldn’t you Mr. Ogilvy?

“What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form.”

So you’re saying…what, exactly?

“What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it.”

Adolph S. Ochs, we haven’t heard anything from you yet. How do you respond to this rather surprising assertion?

“Advertising in the final analysis should be news. If it is not news it is worthless.”

I have to admit to being puzzled. If so many advertising men, leaders in the field, agree that facts and honesty are the heart and soul of advertising, why do we end up with so many patently dishonest ads? Mr. Ogilvy, we’ll continue with you.

“Most agencies run scared, most of the time.”

You’re referring to the tendency of clients to fire agencies on a whim, of course. Sometimes even when the product is selling well and the advertising is scoring high in effectiveness. What is the result of this?

“Frightened people are powerless to produce good advertising.”

Is there anything that could be done?

“If I were a client, I would do everything in my power to emancipate my agencies from fear, even to the extent of giving them long-term contracts.”

So basically you’re saying that one of the major problems to producing good ads is actually the client? Would you agree, Mr. Burnett?

“I have learned that trying to guess what the boss or the client wants is the most debilitating of all influences in the creation of good advertising.”

What advice would you give to clients in dealing with their agencies? Yes, Mr. Ogilvy?

“Do not compete with your agency in the creative area. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?”

Well, we’re almost out of time, so let me ask just one more question which I will direct to David Ogilvy, who has served as something of a spokesman tonight.

Mr. Ogilvy, what advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a good ad writer?

“Many people — and I think I am one of them — are more productive when they’ve had a little to drink. I find if I drink two or three brandies, I’m far better able to write.”

Well, at least that part of the myth is true.

Thank you all.


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