I was delighted to receive The Real Mad Men by Andrew Cracknell in my Christmas stocking.
It’s an enjoyable history of what many consider to be a key period in the history of advertising. (As if anybody who doesn’t work in advertising gives a flying fig about the history of advertising.)
The received wisdom in the industry is that, in the early sixties, advertising suddenly became ‘creative’. So for example, in a press ad, instead of just showing a nice picture of the product and telling you why you should buy it, you got artistic layouts and clever wordplay.
(Whether this gets you more sales is a moot point, however, to those of us trained in the more results-focused world of Direct Marketing. That it will win you more awards and more admiration from your fellow advertising gurus is not, on the other hand, in doubt.)
However, advertising suddenly became Great Art and Great Literature: all rolled into a quarter page mono right-hand page, facing matter.
No longer the simple rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket (as George Orwell called it).
But amongst many other toothsome titbits I discovered while reading the book, two were genuinely surprising, and amusing.
Firstly, David Ogilvy nicked his most famous headline.
You know, the legendary Rolls Royce press ad: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”
This has long been handed down from generation to bright-eyed bushy-tailed generation as One of The Greatest Ads of All Time.
An example of taking a pithy product benefit (a Unique Selling Point/Proposition, as they’re called sometimes) and presenting it in a compelling, memorable way.
The Genius of Ogilvy. (And, by the way, there was no greater publicist of his own genius than Mr O himself.)
Except that The Genius nicked the headline from an earlier ad.
An ad from 1933 for the Pierce Arrow: “The only sound one can hear in the new Pierce Arrow is the ticking of the electric clock.”
I think this is a better line too. ‘Ticking’ really puts you in the car, reinforces the sense of quiet. Compare this with the rather ugly ‘noise’ in the Ogilvy rewrite.
As if that wasn’t enough, I was surprised to learn that another of The All Time Great Ads wasn’t the brain-child of another Genius of Advertising either.
“Think Small”, the famous VW Beetle press ad, from Bill Bernbach’s legendary DDB agency in New York originally had a different headline.
And who was The Genius of Advertising that wanted Think Small as the line? The client.