Back to the Classics – September 2014

Back to the Classics Masthead MCarpenter

 

In July, I gave a presentation at the AdBites   lunch about the Creative Revolution of the 1960s, what many call advertising’s “golden age.” People were pretty interested in the topic — so much so that AAF Omaha asked me to write a monthly column about it in this newsletter. Glad to oblige. Here goes: 

What was so special about the advertising of the 1960s? Why do the big names in the industry today (John Hegarty, Jeff Goodby, Lee Clow, etc.) all say it was the work created in this period that not only convinced them to get into the advertising business, but still inspires them today? 

In my opinion, it’s because these ads were written to sell products! The copy and graphics were crafted to drive home a simple product benefit with devastating power and clarity. Look at the billboard below for Volkwagen by Doyle Dane Bernbach (circa 1965).  vw billboard (2)

 

Three words, one photo, working together to deliver a unique selling proposition: Volkwagens get great gas mileage. No phone number. No address. No slogan. Not a bit of wasted real estate. 

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon obsessed with the past (which I readily admit to being), I’m not sure this kind of work is the norm today. Last week, I sat in a presentation by a film company that shoots videos for Red Bull. The producer mentioned that if you look closely at Red Bull’s website, you’ll notice there’s not a single word of copy about the product itself. He gleefully pointed out that the site features nothing but videos about music, motor sports, surfing, skating, online games, etc. I checked it out. He’s right. I couldn’t find a single mention of the product’s attributes (let alone a photo of the can). 

Yes, yes, I understand that the target market is not bald, bitter, old ad guys who still listen to Fleetwood Mac. But I would think that even an 18-year-old snowboarder with a piercing in every orifice will eventually want to know what the hell this stuff tastes like. 

 

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