Richard Kirshenbaum has a new book out and I'm envious. It's called "Mad Boy" and it's about his experiences in the Mad Men days of advertising. I haven't read it yet, but I will.
His ad agency is in New York, called Kirshenbaum and Bond. They're good, never really got big. They're the ones who did the wonderful (and inexpensive) ads that made Kenneth Cole famous.
One I remember was simply a checklist of all the models, clothes, and locations they'd need for a big photo shoot (which, of course, never took place). Another was a graph of the stock market, explaining that while everyone was losing their shirts, it was good they were in the shoe business.
The Kenneth Cole ads found their way into a book called "Footsteps", which every copywriter should read. It's amazing what you can do with a sharp pencil and paper.
There was a time, before stock photography, when simple all-copy ads were quite common. Now, thanks to Getty et al, smiling faces are everywhere. They don't actually visualize anything, or serve any strategic purpose. They just look nice. And often distract from the message.
When I was starting out, there were a lot of requests for low-budget or no-budget ads. My art-director friend Ross told me that when he was at Doyle Dane Bernbach in Los Angeles, he had to create a Volkswagen TV commercial with a $400 budget. He designed and sold the client on a very simple spot, grabbed a bunch of magic markers, and went to the TV station to do it himself. It was Ross' hands you saw drawing the outline of the Beetle, as he talked about it during the Rose Bowl telecast.
Creating simple, inexpensive ads is hard work. Sometimes harder than big, elaborate ads.
But they can be very easy to read.