Monday, March 19, 2012

Putting the art director on a pedestal.

         What does it take to be a good advertising copywriter? A good advertising art director. I should know; I've been blessed with one after another.

          The first great art director I worked with was Gene Mandarino. That was at my first job in Chicago. Gene worked his magic with pastels, and it was prestidigitation. A whirl of hands, a cloud of yellow, blue, and red, and a good ad appeared on his tabaret. One day, before dusting himself off to go home, Gene tore four pages out of a stock photo book. On each page were 16 small photos. "If you're a copywriter," Gene said to me, "write a headline for a Jim Beam bourbon ad with each of these pictures." I did. Gene opened my mind.

           The next great art director I worked with was Bill Bratkowski. He was from Vancouver and itching to get back out West the whole time I knew him in Detroit. We came up with each idea together but after that,  Bill wouldn't lift a finger until I wrote a good headline for it. Then he would kick me out of his office so he could design a good layout for it. Bill made me realize the value of working with an art director who cared about copy.

            I'm convinced Marty Lieberman talked his agency into hiring me. He wanted a real partner who would get things done. Marty was at his best working on television, and whenever I wasn't sure of something, he would make it better for sure. He was prolific and goaded me into doing work at a consistently high level. At least three Clio nominations came off his drawing board.

            Paul Grisson understands how to get to the heart of the matter --- and into the hearts of viewers and readers. Everything he did surprised me --- and I learned the value of surprising your audience. He did the ad that won us the Gutenberg Award for the Power of Print; with a human eye peering out of a bust of Augustus Caesar. His surrealistic ad campaigns for Delco batteries must have haunted thousands of drivers on snowy mornings. Paul's head of his own agency in Toronto now and can't stop doing fantastic work.

            The art director who taught me to do ads that make you laugh out loud was Ross Van Dusen. He wouldn't do an ad or commercial that wasn't funny. He taught me that humor is a sure way to make your work human. Funny thing about Ross --- he couldn't do a bad ad. Once he had to create crummy ads for a presentation, and try as he would, every one of them looked charming. That's Ross.

            Grab an art director and do an ad today!

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