Thirty years ago, give or take, I started out my career in advertising after a stint in the Navy, and fresh from my intense education as an art director from Art Center in Pasadena. I was lucky to be born when I was because I entered the profession at the crest of a wave in creative advertising, a wave started a generation earlier by genii like Bill Bernbach, Helmut Krone, Carl Ally, David Ogilvy, Hal Riney, Jerry Della Femina, Mary Wells, and hundreds of brilliant copywriters and art directors who had collectively come upon the discovery, since seemingly forgotten, that creativity can reach and persuade far more people than mere reach and frequency.
So when I started at my first agency, Needham Harper Steers in Los Angeles, in 1979, I was initiated into a profession for which creativity was the ante. Clients expected it. The public craved it. Agencies who wanted to compete, provided it. And we were hired to deliver it. It as a golden age, at least if you were what was called a “creative.”
I spent twenty years competing in that culture, vying with my own generation for Clios and One Show Pencils and for a killer book and reel. The best and brightest people wanted to get into agencies because that was not only where the money was, it was where all the fun was–once you finally figured out you weren’t going to be an astronaut.
Then Things Started to Change
Sometime in the 90s technology seemed to take precedence over creativity and newer and newer means to get in front of somebody’s eyeballs became more important than what to say when you got there.
But those principles of creativity that I started with are still relevant. It’s still a fact, as David Ogilvy said, “You can’t bore somebody into buying your product.” And while you might be able to thrust an ad directly into a targeted face via Facebook or Google, if you’re dull, you’re more likely to offend than persuade. People aren’t waiting around for your ad to appear as a popup, or your commercial to interrupt their show.
Tell Me What You Want Them to Do
I got into advertising to begin with because I was excited about the notion that I could combine the two things I loved most, creativity and psychology, into an insidious method to get people to change their minds. Didn’t matter about what: McDonald’s hamburgers, voting a certain way, funding the Hubble Space Telescope, contributing to a cause, shopping at a store, fastening their seat belts, moving to Montana. Give me the thing you want people to do, and I’ll think of a way to get them to do it…and they’ll think it was their own idea.
I love this power. I seem to have a gift for it. I’ve been highly trained to wield it. And it still makes me heady when I, working with other creatives I’ve been blessed to work with, come up with a concept that can change minds.
Oh, I was going to tell you about my experience. Well, you can go look at that on my LinkedIn page , read my book, The Unbreakable Rules of Marketing, and see some of my own work on my Website, People’s Branding. And no, to those of you not endowed with the humor gene, I am not (nor have I ever been), a communist. It’s a joke. Irony. A satire. A creative trope…oh, never mind.