"Two years ago (1990) the new president of Kraft, Mike Mile toured his kingdom. It is a very big realm indeed. Kraft's turnover worldwide was then $23 Billion. They spent $1.2 billion on advertising. He visited his agencies ( causing I imagene Richter scale size spasms) saw all their work, studied all the figures. To his consternation, and no doubt that of the agencies, he found no correlation between sales and ad spend. In some areas he doubled the budget. No difference. In other areas he halved the budget. No difference. In yet other areas he stopped advertising. No difference.
Mr. Mile was only observing what we all know to be true: Large agencies in collusion with large marketing departments, arbitrated over research companies, often arrive finally and wearily at a least worst result: commercials of stultifying predictability that nobody even notices. Safety certainly doesn't work anymore, if it ever did. Only the wonderful works in advertising. Though I have to say this was not Mr. Mile's conclusion. He drafted a set of rules designed to deliver the true appetite appeal of his man made products. They arrived in my office carried by a Canadian brand manager with all the charm, wit and imagination of his nation, and so clean cut he looked as if he's just been to a casting session for Gilette. "I want my product up there on the stage alone screaming out it's superiority," he said.
Now his product was Maxwell House, a coffe of such inferiority it visits a shrink every week when Nescafe outsells it six to one. "You've just described a poster, won't it make a rather boring commercial," I replied with my well known, calm, diplomacy.
"That," he smiled at me his razored smile, "is why we have an agency." To this day I'm not sure wheather he meant our job was to produce boring commercials or not. Anyway, he got one. The good news came through: " You can Use Maggie Smith." Followed by the bad news: "But you can't let her act."
In the sixties dictates such as "Thou shalt not poach another agency's clients" or "Thou shalt not knock a competitor" or "thou shalt not start an agency without guaranteed billings" lent proffesional trappings and preserved the status quo. No up-start young agencies to muddy the waters in those days. Antiquated and restrictive they might have been, such codes were adhered to. They gave semblance of a unified purpose and higher ideals. They might with benefit have been modified. Instead they were abandoned. Alone and vunerable, individual agencies were to have their margins cut to the bone by voracious clients. Pitch list were to grow inordinately long. Gradually, a service industry became a servile one. None of which was noticed at the time; a volcano called Doyle Dane Bernbach had erupted in New York. It's shock waves were to change English advertising forever and, improbable as it would have seemed to those addicted to such things as cartoon figures with big noses, sloganeering and press ads which resembled typographical fruit salads, were to make our advertising the best in the world through out the seventies and eighties. The confluence of races at Ellis island at the turn of the century had wrought a highly tensile, new language admirably suited to the advertising message. The New York Jewish copywriters invested it with wit and wisdom to produce such lines as
"The $75 tyre, if it only saves your life once it's a bargain."
Combined with Art Direction of stunning simplicity, DDB created advertising for VW, Avis, Seagrams and Polaroid which was at once original, credible and beautiful. It made everything else suddenly old, addy, faked-up. They elevated selling into an honorable occupation.
"There is no need to lie, to be silly," their work proclaimed. "Consumers are as intelligent as you are. If you are honest and imaginative they'll buy from you."
The banner was to be taken up by 'second and third wave' agencies, talanted, energetic and sometimes radical. But now few waves are being made by anyone. It's all gone a bit flat."
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