Sunday, March 11, 2012

History repeats itself.

          Barbara Tuchman, the famous historian, once wrote that "being in love with your subject is indispensable for writing good history --- or anything, for that matter". People always ask me about that.

          "How can you write an ad for a product or company you don't like?"  I tell them I can't do a good job then. The next question is how I manage to  be so positive about the products I do create advertising for. For years, Chevrolet is a wonderful car. Then Pontiac is the great one. First I convince people that Jim Beam should be your choice because it's steeped in American history, and then I ask you to drink Smirnoff because it's filtered so well. How is it possible to love Kraft, Gatorade, Hallmark and Pringles?

           The answer is, you as a marketing person have to know enough about a product or company to fall in love with it. It may not be love at first sight (or bite) but it's love.

           During the Vietnam war, of course one creative group at the agency refused to do commercials for Scrubbin' Bubbles, the bathroom cleaner. The product was made by Dow Chemical, the company that also made napalm, which our military was using to clear jungles. Unfortunately there were people in those jungles. The agency account director tried to explain that Scrubbin' Bubbles was for American bathtubs, and harmless. Nothing doing. Other creative people who weren't so passionately anti-Dow made the commercials. Had  the first group worked on it, the commercials would've been awful. I would not work on it myself.

           Leo Burnett, the founder of the huge Chicago advertising agency of the same name, once wrote a memo that he noticed some employees were smoking other cigarettes besides Marlboro, their client. In the memo he told them that for fine tobacco and real smoking enjoyment, there's nothing like bread and butter.

           Maybe loyalty is part of it, but I agree with Tuchman. When you love your work, it shows.

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