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First published in print edition in Italian in 2011 by
Fausto Lupetti Editore, with the title
“Just doing it.
Storia dell’advertising attraverso i suoi protagonisti”.
Cover Graphic Design: Robin Elliott
English Version: Raphael Amabile
Digital Editing: Raphael Amabile
Digital Services: ePubmatic.com
ISBN: 978-88-98191-26-0 (eBook)
Edzioni Alkemia Books / www.alkemiabooks.com
© 2014 Pia Elliott
Just doing it.
By Pia Elliott
The New American Century
The reason behind this book
The real protagonist of this book is the American century: a time, place, and economic situation that contributed to the birth of demand for goods and subsequently their supply. In the beginning these goods were basic human necessities and have, over time, become increasingly unnecessary and even down-right superfluous. Advertising, simply put, acts as the go-between of supply and demand. It was born on paper, crawled with the radio, and finally learned to walk on television. It was at first naïvely emphatic, redundant and pompous, yet would grow more and more subtle, persuasive, and penetrating. Born by chance, advertising has evolved on its own, reinventing itself from time to time in the wake of ever-changing events. The same goes for the advertiser, a trade which did not exist, a subject not taught in schools or universities but learned by hands-on practice in studios and workshops: just doing it. This is the reason for the title of this book. It is not a homage to Nike (if it were, all that would be needed is the swoosh©). The title conveys in 3 short and succinct words exactly how the advertising profession was born: it was the people who created, changed, and revolutionized it. To this very day these founding fathers have left their mark in the companies that still bear their names.
A late arrival compared to other artistic professions such as music, painting, and cinema that by the middle of the 19th century had already undermined every existing rule and tradition. Advertising was the last modern art form to appear on the scene and can be viewed as the most subversive. It has changed the habits and lifestyles of human beings, and has contaminated genres and forms without ever taking on a definitive shape of its own. After the conclusion of the American Century and its counterpart in Europe – accepted with open arms in the Swinging London and France at the turn of the century –advertising in this day and age is to be found elsewhere. It continues to evolve on other continents, on the trail of people who are now considered to be founders, innovators, and advertising revolutionaries. Among these is George Lois, a brilliant artist and protagonist of the Creative Revolution who had the kindness to write this book’s introduction. His work in advertising, the covers he created for Esquire (which are now part of the MoMA’s permanent collection) have characterized an era, and are an integral part of the American century.
Despite its English title, Just Doing It came to light in Italian, and was first published in 2011 by the editor Fausto Lupetti. The English edition of the book is enriched and expanded with a second part dedicated to advertising in India and China: The New Asian Century. It is an account of the liberalization of consumer goods and consequently advertising – which arrived a half century later than in the west – and because of this presents never-before-seen aspects and unforeseen developments.
About the author
Pia Elliott worked as a copywriter in multiple international advertising agencies before co-founding Promos Italia (which would go on to become part of BBDO). Her agency developed into a school for some of the most creative copywriters and art directors in Italian advertising. Later on in her life Pia Elliott focused her attention towards Institutions. She coordinated many communication campaigns for the European Union, even spearheading the public service announcements introducing the Euro as common currency. Nowadays Mrs. Elliott spends her time writing about advertising, teaches University-level courses and seminars, and is working on a biography regarding a select few of contemporary and historical musicians.
TIMELINE KEY MOMENTS IN ADVERTISING
INFLUENTIAL & INFLUENCES
THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF ADVERTISING
JAMES WEBB YOUNG
STANLEY & HELEN RESOR
HOWARD LUCK GOSSAGE
MARY WELLS LAWRENCE
HALFWAY THROUGH THE STORY
JERRY DELLA FEMINA
THE BIG AMERICAN AGENCIES
ALLEN ROSENSHINE & BRUCE CRAWFORD
WIEDEN + KENNEDY
THE GREAT DIRECTORS OF AMERICAN ADVERTISING
THE JINGLE JANGLE SOUND OF ADVERTISING
COLONELS AND OLD SCHOOL TIES
JOHN PEARCE & PARTNERS
THREE AMERICAS IN LONDON
TWO ENGLISHMEN IN NEW YORK
BEANZ MEANZ HEINZ
JOHN WEBSTER & BOASE MASSIMI POLLITT
ALAN PARKER & RIDLEY SCOTT
CHARLES & MAURICE SAATCHI
COI, CENTRAL OFFICE OF INFORMATION
THE GREAT PARADE
PUBLICIS & HAVIS
ADVERTISING SHOWS ITS BEHIND
THE ITALIANS, PRIMAL SCENE
THE SCENE AT YOUNG & RUBICAM
BOOKS & WEBSITES
Preface by George Lois
In the late 1940s and 50s, Frederic Wakeman wrote the The Hucksters, Sloan Wilson wrote The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, and Vance Packard wrote The Hidden Persuaders. They effectively convinced millions of Americans that the ad agency world was full of fake--out artists who sell out their souls while manipulating society’s values.
When Bill Bernbach emerged on the scene in 1948 (the year he founded the first creative ad agency in the world, Doyle Dane Bernbach), he was the loneliest of voices in a wilderness that did resemble the unsavory vision of Wakeman, Wilson and Packard. Bernbach, influenced by the epiphany of his experience in creating ads with the modernist designer, Paul Rand, precipitated the now legendary movement called The Advertising Creative Revolution. In the pre-Bernbach dark ages of advertising, as described in this concisely researched history of advertising, businessmen rather than artists, working primarily with writers, instigated and actually created America’s ads and TV commercials. Predictably, 99% of the work produced by these Establishment ad agencies was dreadful.
Bernbach innovated the absolutely radical idea of pairing art directors (at that time mostly ethnic, modernist designers) - with copywriters, as teams to create advertising with potent visual imagery that would appeal to people’s sweeter instincts: to love, laughter, wit and humanity. The quantum advance that Bill Bernbach achieved encouraged artistry and imagery in a hackneyed industry that sang the praises of walking a mile for a Camel and a fool squeezing Charmin toilet paper. Make no mistake - when I was in my early 20’s in the 1950s (other than Doyle Dane Bernbach and Herb Lubalin’s atelier at Sudler & Hennessy) displaying talent at an ad agency in America, all run by dull, uninspired, no-talent stiffs, was impossible.
From this extraordinary union of creative forces, The New Advertising was born, and Madison Avenue would never be the same. As the 1950s came to a close, DDB foretold the advent of a looming creative revolution. Appropriately enough, on the very first working day of the year 1960, copywriter Julian Koenig and I, in what industry professionals called an act of hubris and perhaps insanity, left Doyle Dane Bernbach and started what would become to be known as “The Second Creative Agency in the America,” Papert Koenig Lois.
Even Bernbach was aghast at our arrogance; he knew that DDB was perceived by the ad industry as a freakish, once-in-a-lifetime success story, and that the philosophy and ethos of that revolutionary agency could never be duplicated. But PKL was an immediate success, garnering accounts, media attention, and worldwide praise, spearheading the most vibrant, creative, and certainly the most tempestuous decade in the history of advertising. Bill Bernbach was convinced that “there can be only one creative agency in the world.” Before the decade of the 1960s was over, however, there were a dozen.
The new movement was driven by in-your-face art directors, all tough-talking personalities, most of them from the hip, gritty streets of New York. Our new audacious art became a new kind of language: a fusion of image and word, from ad to action. The creative revolution took advertising beyond the normal channels of communication. It is in the work created during this golden age that we first saw brilliant, almost mesmerizing concept ads, leaving gifts of pure artistry that influenced advertising throughout the world — a creative force that has yet to be equaled.
With $250, Francis Wayland Ayer opens N.W. Ayer & Son (named after his father) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He implements the first commission system based on “open contracts.” His clients include Montgomery Ward, John Wanamaker Department Stores, Singer Sewing Machines, and Pond’s Beauty Cream.
James Walter Thompson buys Carlton & Smith from William J. Carlton, paying $500 for the business and $800 for the office furniture. He renames it after himself and moves into general magazine advertising. Later, he invents the position of account executive.
Department store founder John Wanamaker is the first retailer to hire a full-time advertising copywriter, John E. Powers.
Daniel M. Lord and Ambrose L. Thomas form Lord & Thomas in Chicago, Illinois. The firm eventually becomes Foote Cone & Belding.
Procter & Gamble Co. begins advertising Ivory soap with an unprecedented budget of $11,000.
Cyrus H.K. Curtis launches Ladies' Home Journal with his wife, Louisa Knapp Curtis, as editor.
Asa Briggs Chandler registers Coca-Cola as a trademark.
J. Walter Thompson Co. is the first agency to open an office in the U.K. Campbell Soup Co. makes its first advertising buy. The Association of American Advertisers, predecessor to the Association of National Advertisers, is formed.
J. Walter Thompson retires; Stanley Resor and a group of colleagues buy him out for $500,000. Resor becomes president, establishes a market research department and closes the London office to save costs.
Barton Durstine & Osborn opens in New York.
Bozell & Jacobs opens in Omaha, Nebraska.
AT&T’s station WEAF in New York offers 10 minutes of radio time to anyone who would pay $100. The Queensboro Corp., a Long Island real estate firm, buys the first commercials in advertising history : 15 spots at $50 apiece.
Fortunato Depero, a futurist painter and designer, creates the Campari Soda bottle still in use today.
Lintas (Lever International Advertising Services) is formed as a house agency for Unilever in England, Holland and Germany.
Barton Durstine & Osborn merges with the George Batten Co., forming Batten Barton Durstine & Osborn. With billings of $32 million, it becomes one of the biggest agencies.
KDKA, Pittsburgh, becomes the first radio station in the U.S. and is the first to broadcast the results of the 1920 presidential election.
American Tobacco Co. spends $12.3 million to advertise Lucky Strikes, the most any company has ever spent on single-product advertising.
Advertising Age is first started in Chicago, Illinois as a broadsheet magazine.
Life publishes its first edition. It later becomes the first magazine to carry $100 million annually in advertising.
Radio surpasses magazines as a source of advertising revenue. Radio programs are sponsored by large consumer goods and their agencies. Radio is the newest and up-to-date medium and advertisers are convinced that it is the best way to give a product personality and stimulate the listener’s imagination. The advent of radio in America played a powerful role in the rise of mass culture.
Congress passes the Copeland Bill, which gives the Food & Drug Administration regulatory powers over the manufacture and sale of drugs.
Frederic Wakeman’s The Hucksters is published and becomes a bestseller that would later become a film starring Clark Gable.
JWT becomes the first agency to surpass $100 million in billings.
Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson & Mather is launched.
Doyle Dane Bernbach opens its doors.
In the USA Life magazine has a turnover of over 100 million dollars in advertising.
The Advertising Research Foundation endorses A.C. Nielsen’s machine-based ratings system for TV.
CBS becomes the largest advertising medium in the world.
The Marlboro Man campaign debuts.
Videotape recording makes prerecorded commercials possible.
Vance Packard’s “The Hidden Persuaders,” a potent attack on advertising, is published. It stays on the bestseller list for 18 weeks.
The National Association of Broadcasters bans subliminal ads.
Doyle Dane Bernbach introduces the “creative team” approach of combining a copywriter with an art director to create its “Think small” campaign for Volkswagen.
Papert Koenig Lois is launched. In 1962, it becomes the first agency to go public.
David Ogilvy publishes Confessions of an Advertising Man.
“The Pepsi Generation” kicks off the cola wars.
After the U.S. surgeon general determines that smoking is “hazardous to your health,” The New Yorker and other magazines ban cigarette ads.
Ogilvy Benson & Mather merges with London-based parent company Mather & Crowther, to form Ogilvy & Mather.
NBC drops its ban on comparative advertising. ABC and CBS don't follow suit until 1972.
The XVIII Tokyo Olympics are the first television event to be broadcast via satellite.
Cigarette advertising is banned by the BBC.
Color television is first broadcast in France and Germany.
Wells Rich Greene is established. Mary Wells is the first woman to head a major agency.
The Apollo Moon landing takes place on the 20th and 21st of July. It is watched on TV by more than 500 million people for more than 28 consecutive hours.
Saatchi & Saatchi is established in London.
Jacques Séguéla, with Bernard Roux, establishes Roux Séguéla in Paris.
TBWA is formed in Paris as the first European Agency.
Congress prohibits broadcast advertising of cigarettes
Emanuele Pirella, Michele Goettsche, and Gianni Muccini set up the Italia agency. The only other exclusively Italian agencies are Testa, B Communications, and ODG.
On the 31st of December Carosello airs for the last time in Italy. It was a unique program dedicated solely to advertising that started in 1957.
The RAI (Radio Televisione Italiana) starts to air programming in color. Meanwhile free-to-air TV stations start to emerge broadcasting syndicated programs on fixed schedules.
The first European Parliament elections are held. The tender for the campaign is won by the Italian agency Italia.
Jacques Séguéla’s seminal book is published in France with the title Don’t Tell my Mother that I Work in Advertising. She Thinks that I’m a Pianist in a Brothel.
Ted Turner creates CNN in Atlanta, Georgia.
Silvio Berlusconi buys Tele-Milano and renames it Canale 5. It becomes the flagship channel of his national network Mediaset.
In France the program La nuit des Publivores debuts. It is a non-stop cavalcade of advertising spots from around the world. It is created by using the commercial collection of Jean Marie Boursicot.
The slogan “La Force Tranquille” thought up by Jacques Séguéla hands François Mitterrand the French Presidency.
MTV debuts with frenetic video images that change the nature of commercials.
Martin Sorrel comes on board at Wire and Plastic Plc (WWP). It is a publicly traded company and serves as the springboard for his global escalation in marketing services.
Needham Harper Worldwide, BBDO International, and Doyle Dane Bernbach merge to create Omnicom Group, the largest advertising company in the world.
Saatchi & Saatchi buys Ted Bates Worldwide, becoming the world’s largest agency holding company.
Saatchi & Saatchi merges Backer & Spielvogel with Bates to form Backer Spielvogel Bates.
Martin Sorrell sells more than $500 million worth of new shares in WPP Group, allowing him to pay almost $600 million for JWT in the industry’s first hostile takeover.
WPP acquires the Ogilvy Group for $864 million, the highest price paid for an agency
The poster created for Benetton by the photographer Oliviero Toscani stirs up a scandal. The photograph of a black nurse breast-feeding a white baby is considered rascist by African-Americans who don’t quite comprehend Toscani’s anti-rascism. Despite the controversy towards the subjects of the photos – frequently bold and pushing societal limits - the campaign “United Colors of Benetton” is appreciated the world over.
Silvio Berlusconi has a complete monopoly on information in Italy with his three television networks and Mondadori publishing group.
The fisrt global conference on sustainable development is held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
The Internet becomes a reality as 5 million users worldwide get online.
In the largest account switch in history, IBM Corp. yanks its business from scores of agencies worldwide and consolidates the entire account with O&M.
TBWA and Chiat/Day merge.
Following crises within the organization, Saatchi & Saatchi re-emerges under newly created Cordiant.
As its share price plunges 30%, Maurice and Charles Saatchi leave the agency they founded in 1970.
WWP combines the media operations of JWT and O&M to form The Alliance, the largest U.S. media buyer.
Cordiant spins off Saatchi & Saatchi and Bates Worldwide into separate companies.
The Wells agency shuts its doors. Interpublic combines its Western International Media with Initiative Media in Paris to create the world’s largest media management shop with $10 billion in billings.
Internet advertising breaks the $2 billion mark and heads toward $3 billion as the industry, under prodding from Procter & Gamble, moves to standardize all facets of the industry.
No Logo, written by Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein is published for the first time.
The first series of Mad Men debuts in the USA on AMC, it is set in a successful ad agency (although fictional it is strikingly authentic). The series both narrates and critiques the American Dream and the American Way of Life at the beginning of the 1960’s (which was already deteriorating) through the clichés of successful advertising campaigns. The writer and executive producer is Matthew Weiner of The Sopranos fame. Note the caption under the headline of Mad Men – Where the truth lies - which is both an irreverent quote of McCann Erickson’s motto (Truth well told) and a brilliant play on words. The phrase can mean either “where the truth is found” or “where the truth is falsified”. It is an exemplary series that harkens back to a bygone era.
Book I : The Protagonists of Western Advertising
This book is all about “influential individuals”, people who by the virtue of their actions and because of their creations have influenced the habits and behavior of millions upon millions of men and women. They have done this by inducing needs and stimulating demand for goods that at times can be superfluous and completely unnecessary. For this reason advertising agents are looked upon almost exclusively in a bad light – without knowing exactly however – who they are, what they do, in what context, and with what results. They are not writers nor journalists, neither graphic designers nor illustrators: they are copywriters and art directors. These professionals carry out a precise task: that of marketing and communication. A line of work that is like no other…
Among the influential players there are many Americans and Britons, and of course some Italians and the French have made their mark in advertising. Some of them are well-known, and some of them are outright famous in their own regard: personalities such as Bill Bernbach and Mary Wells immediately come to mind. Between some copywriters and art directors there exists a thin line that connects them to certain schools of thought, this discourse is touched upon in the book yet is not its premise. Just Doing It is a book that gives the reader an overview and a “look at the big picture” of the birth, dawn, and golden years of western advertising in the 20th century. A time that has been coined “The Advertising Century” (1).
In 1999 Advertising Age published a special edition of its magazine about the history of American advertising. This 136 page volume is a collection of the 100 best advertising campaigns, the 100 most influential players, the 10 best jingles, slogans, and logos of the 20th century. The digital version of the magazine is available on Advertising Age’s website, and it contains an even larger breath of information dedicated to “The Advertising Century”.
Influential & influences
The criteria used in Just Doing It of selecting the 100 most influential individuals of advertising are neither historical nor exhaustive. Beside what can be interpreted as a clear, personal evaluation by the author, it is difficult to establish certain standards without basing them on origins, countries, and cultures. This being the case, Americans and Britons are at a decisive advantage.
At the end of the 1800s there were already numerous and important ad agencies active in the U.S.A. What’s even more striking is that during this primordial stage of advertising the J.W. Thompson agency came up with one of the most beautiful slogans of all time: “A Skin you love to touch”. The J.W. Thompson Agency was founded in 1864, and the slogan was written for the Woodbury Soap Company in 1911.
In other words, in the USA advertising had already come to light and was finding its own way. Conversely over in Europe, in Paris and Vienna artists such as Toulouse Lautrec and Gustav Klimt were amusing themselves by creating pictorial manifestos. In Italy “cartellonismo” was in full force dominated by the styles of Dudovic or Cappiello. Among the “cartellonisti” at the beginning of the 20th century there was a real artist by the name of Depero. He was a futurist and brilliant designer who now has a permanent collection at MART (the Museum of Modern Art of Trento). The Campari Soda bottle that is still in use today was designed by Depero in 1928.
Coming back to how we came about selecting the criteria for this book: In general we have placed more importance on being “influential” rather than on being a public personality. Our focus is on those who have created schools of thought and ways of conceiving advertising, an advertising that in turn has created other personalities and new trends.
We are also a little partial to the Anglo-American world. In a profession that literally “owes it all” to the USA, England, and the English language it’s rather difficult not to be just a little bit bias.
Regarding everything else in terms of selection we have invented nothing. Luckily for us there is already a well consolidated “Hall of Fame”, both American and British to draw on. Seeing as that the 20th century is also known as the “Advertising Age”, in 1999 Advertising Age Magazine published an accurate selection of a who’s who of advertising. People on this list range from pure admen to the world’s greatest creative minds. There are even a few tycoons thrown in for good measure (Martin Sorrel, Ted Turner are examples) and even fewer entrepreneurial geniuses such as Steve Jobs. To sum things up we can simple say that the selection process had already been done for us.
Our 100 most influential people are generally organized in chronological order, without, of course, neglecting the importance of derivations and mergers, which characterize the advertising system. In a profession where you learn everything first hand and on the job, what really matters is: first, start working with agency “X”, then move on to company “Y”, and continue at “Z” partners, to finally (but not always) setting up one’s very own agency. Therefore, in this book there are also quite a few agencies listed among the influential 100.
For some unknown reason, the American 20th century was longer than in other nations. In the rest of the world it was correctly summed up by the British historian Eric Hobsbawm as the period between 1914 and the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 (1).
Regarding the history of mass consumption and advertising we can say with absolute certainty that the American 20th century was rather lengthy. It was so long that it actually started back in the 1800s. It’s true, the first office of J. Walter Thompson was opened in 1864. The first fulltime copywriter was hired by N. W. Ayer in 1892. Printer’s Ink magazine was founded in 1893 as a teaching aid for those who wished to learn the trade of advertising art.
Practically all of the most well-known American agencies had already “branded” themselves by the early 1950s: Lintas, BBDO, Ogilvy, Benton & Bowles, Young & Rubicam, Leo Burnett, Ted Bates, Doyle Dane & Bernbach, McCann, were all founded before 1959 came to a close. Even if Bill Bernbach’s so-called “creative revolution” came about in the 1960s, it was in the first half of their advertising century that the Americans had already done, said, and codified literally everything.
Not all American adverting is branded Madison Avenue and wears Brooks Brothers. After Bill Bernbach, the other American Revolution took place in 1962 on the shores of the Pacific, in sunny Los Angeles. That was the year that Jay Chiat and Guy Day opened an agency where one preferably wore shorts to the office, and they came away with more creative award wins in the 1980s than anyone else!
(1) See “The Age of Extremes – The Short Twentieth Century” by Eric Hobsbawm, 1994
As far as advertising is concerned, the English owe it all to their cousins on the other side of the pond, the Americans. However, since the end of the Second World War the British have been pulling their own weight, and flexing their muscles. It all began right after the end of World War II in a London destroyed by the bombings and hungry. Out of this misery a rather extraordinary event took place: along with reforming the scholastic and healthcare systems, the government established the COI (Central Office of Information). The COI is the state’s marketing agency and government mouthpiece and to this very day deals with all the country’s public service campaigns. They manage the tender calls of various ministries and para-government agencies, buying the media with a series of lawfully awarded contracts that are continually updated. The COI is in charge of advertising campaigns for the public good (road safety, tobacco abuse, alcohol abuse, and many more) that win both applause and awards at all the festivals.
Regarding commercial advertising, England had followed in the footsteps of America until the 1950s. It took the jumps and jolts of swinging London to create a real agency: Collett Dickenson Pearce. Just like Doyle Dane Bernbach had done in the US, this agency was about to turn the advertising world on its head. Collett Dickenson Pearce, better known as CDP was a veritable breeding ground of numerous forms of talent. These talents ranged from admen, designers, and photographers to directors and producers. What sets the British apart from their American counterparts is that advertising in England (and for that matter publishing, photography, and film) was never a stand-alone phenomenon but an all-encompassing expression of the turmoil and creativity that was modifying British culture and the English way of life. Many Influential personalities rose out of CDP. Among the alumni are the producer David Putnam, the director Alan Parker, Charles and Maurice Saatchi, Tony and Ridley Scott, Adrian Lyne, Peter Mayle, John Hegarty, and Frank Lowe. People, whose influence on British popular culture was so immense that their stories were told in a recent film by Mike Wadding and produced by the BBC. They are the witnesses to a one-of-a-kind cultural upheaval never before seen in Europe. on British popular culture was so immense that their stories were told in a recent film by Mike Wadding and produced by the BBC.
Does a truly European advertising style really exist? One that is not dependent on the English language and is not tied to the Anglo-American marketing model? Well, let’s say that the French, and to a lesser extent the Italians, have created their own distinctive styles. Both styles have their own individual sets of strengths and weaknesses. Nowadays, most ad campaigns tend to be done internationally (thanks in part to globalization and simple convenience). Just take the McDonalds claim “I’m loving it” for example. It is not only spot on, but was the work of a German creative team by the name of Heye & Partners. This just goes to show that the language of advertising has become globalized all on its own. In Germany’s case, the relatively late arrival of commercial television (1979) only slowed down what was to become an outpouring of creative talent. It is therefore without a doubt that during the fabulous 1980s advertising in Germany reached its highest professional levels ever. In those days one would buy and flip through Stern magazine as one used to with Life magazine :to look at the advertisements and photographs.
Currently, among the top 10 agencies in Germany and Spain 7 of them are multinational groups. These companies are the end results of an ever more complex system of mergers and acquisitions. This being said, the fact that an agency remains all German - or all Spanish or all Italian for that matter - has become a defining mark (yet not necessarily a qualifying one).
Only a few years ago, in 2010, the French multinational advertising agency Publicis Groupe was already one of the “Big Four” companies. They held the fourth place position after WPP, Interpublic, and Omnicom. On the 28th of July 2013, a statement was released to the press that Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group would merge to form Publicis Omnicom Group, making them the third largest advertising conglomerate in the world.
It may seem almost impossible, but in the land where advertising whispers soft and sweet, it is surprising that at the controls – since the very beginning – are more industrialists and corporate raiders than true admen. Vincent Bollorè, Alain de Pouzilhac (long-time CEO of Publicis Group), Maurice Levy and Jacques Séguéla (president of Euro RSCG Worldwide) are all, for one reason or another, protagonists of advertising in France. A world where business and creativity are indistinguishably tied to the interests of French industrial conglomerates and media centers.
In turn, the RSCG brand was home to the most influential people in French advertising: Bernard Roux, Jacques Séguéla, Alain Cayzac and Jean-Michel Goudard. These professionals, together with Bernard Brochant, have been active not only in advertising but also in political communications and presidential campaigns. Truth be told, besides Séguéla (who by all means is an authentic European advertising genius) everything else is just business - and what a business!
The French advertising style is one of softness, sweetness, and whispers. It is simply implied by language: detergents, cheeses, diapers and perfumes are all sold with the same tone. Only when it comes to automobiles does French advertising get gutsy (with often surprising and baffling results)!
The founding fathers of advertising
The founding fathers of advertising are (and this goes without saying) the Americans. They came from all over the country yet never far from the big urban centers of the day: Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Philadelphia, and of course, New York City.
How and why advertising came to be in the United States (and therefore in English) is a phenomenon that warrants an in-depth investigation – from economic historians to linguistic and cultural scholars. Some reasons however, are plainly evident. A macroscopic factor can be seen at the end of the American Civil War. Between 1861 and 1864 more than 700,000 soldiers perished. The conflict also produced over 500,000 disabled veterans and invalids. After Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, these war machines were systematically dismantled, soldiers were sent home, and defense spending was reduced to a bare minimum (1). On the contrary, every developed nation in Europe had an ever expanding military industrial complex. By essentially not maintaining a standing army, the US was able to direct its resources into developing gigantic industry and economies. As a consequence, even the mentalities and lifestyles of Americans changed – long before their European counterparts – towards the increasing-popularity of durable and semi-durable goods. Examples of these include: automobiles, radios, refrigerators, and washing machines. These consumer goods burst onto the scene already branded, wrapped, packed, and competing one with the other. Competition in protestant society is respected, and the Americans (with their protestant majority) made good use of it. Before anyone had known it they were advertising automobiles (2), marmalade, or for that matter, toothpaste.
The development of advertising has also led to answers of contingent questions. Take this example “how do we take care of the consumer needs of a population where most people are essentially still living in the wilderness”? The ingenious answer to this question came in the form of the “mail-order catalog”. Sears and Woolworth were the main competitors, and through their pages and advertisements they sold everything imaginable: from bricks to ladies ‘hats (3)…
Likewise, there were Department Stores in Europe but there wasn’t an entrepreneur like John Wanamaker. He introduced the “satisfied or your money back” formula to America, and the sales policy of placing price tags on every item (4).
Even the style of American advertising (already very modern in 1920) is more than likely the result of a practicality that reduces the English language to its bare essentials. It is also the way a society speaks: a society more homogenous and assimilated then its European counterpart (and certainly more egalitarian and less class-conscious). A culture open to, and tolerant of, new ideas. This brought the acceptance of new professions and professionalism as long as they are carried out with seriousness and competence.
This was the America that in 1901 – during Teddy Roosevelt’s first term – had the highest pro capita income in the world. It is therefore no secret as to why the first ad agencies and admen came into existence in the US, and in this time period.
(1) In 1898 with a population of 30 million, the American Army counted only 28,000 among its ranks. A few years later, at the end of Teddy Roosevelt’s last term in office, military spending was less than 0.5% of the GDP. Source: “Decadenza della civiltà occidentale” Mario Silvestri, Einaudi.
(2) The assembly line was invented in the USA at the beginning of the 20th century. Already in 1916 the US auto industry produced one million and a half automobiles per year, and more than three million of them were already on the road.
(3) The first company to set up a mail order business was Montgomery Ward in Chicago. It opened its doors in 1872, and in 1904 sent out more than three million catalogs to their customers. Each catalog weighed over 4 pounds (2 kg).
(4) John Wanamaker (1838-1922) was the owner of clothing stores in both Philadelphia and New York City. He started to promote and advertise his goods at a fixed price, and in 1880 he hired the world’s first copywriter John E. Powers. Wanamaker was voted into the American advertising hall of fame as the founding father of advertising. He is also the author of a joke known to all advertisers: “Half of what you spend in advertising is useless, but I don’t know what half”.
A legend in his own right and author of the benchmark guide Scientific Advertising (a volume that since its inception has been known as “the bible” of modern advertising). Claude Hopkins is to be looked upon as the original adman and Founding Father of commercial communication.
No one else has ever invented, theorized, or implemented as many advertising “genres” and promotional “formulae” as Mr. Hopkins. These genres and formulae - that he invented over 100 years ago -are still being used today in advertising (both in theory and practice).
A personality like Claude could only have its roots in rural America. He was born in the year 1866 into a small Michigan farming community. His father was both a Baptist Preacher and owner of the local newspaper. Unfortunately his father passed away suddenly when Claude was only 10. This tragedy left him with no choice but to help take care of his family economically while continuing his studies. One of the various jobs that he held in this period was being a door-to-door salesman. The experiences he gained while selling door-to-door would turn out to be extremely useful later on in his life, when he graduated from High School and started to work full-time.
As if on purpose, Claude’s first full-time job was with the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company (to this very day makers of carpet cleaners and accessories) where knowing the art of the sale is essential. At the Bissell Company Mr. Hopkins had one of his very first ingenious ideas: a free carpet brush to every retailer and shop keeper who put Bissell advertisements in their store windows. The initiative was so successful that it springboarded Hopkins from backwater America to cosmopolitan Chicago. This time however, he was hired as an advertising agent for Swift & Company (leaders in the fields of meat-packing and fruit preserves). At Swift he had another inspired idea, an idea that would be of momentous importance. “The World’s Largest Cake” was created as a promotional gimmick for the grand opening of a department store. This cake (obviously baked with ingredients produced by the Swift Company) gave us the first of the “World’s Largest”. This concept should be seen as a cultural phenomenon: Hopkins’ brainchild has been replicated all over the USA ever since (from “The World’s Largest Ball of String” to “The World’s Largest Hamburger”).
Hopkins next challenge was “Dr. Shoop’s Cough Syrup”: a classic cough remedy from Racine Wisconsin that nobody wanted. Claude was not only able to sell the medicine but also created a demand for it. This would be the first time that a product was marketed via a system of “free samples” and “satisfied or your money back” campaigns: Claude Hopkins literally invented sales and advertising promotions.
After the “Dr. Shoop” success Hopkins accepted a job as an official copywriter with the Stack Advertising Agency. It was during his time at Stack that he completely revolutionized his approach to advertising. No longer were products dramatically sold with urgency and pressure, but presented subtly and with reason. In other words, Hopkins learned that one whisper is worth more than 100 people screaming.
Finally in 1907 Claude met and subsequently joined forces with Albert Lasker. This would become the encounter that changed not just both men’s lives, but the entire history of advertising. Lasker’s agency Lord & Thomas was founded in Chicago in 1873. It was at this agency where many things now common in advertising first took place. For example they were the first ad agency to be considered “creative” (long before Bill Bernbach’s revolution). Lord & Thomas gave us the first product comparison campaign using Van Camp’s canned beans as the star. They compared the consumption of beans cooked at home (94% of the population) to ready-to-eat canned beans (6% of the population). Needless to say this had never been done before.
Claude Hopkins went on to take a simple bar of soap and publicizes it as a beauty secret. This soap, a mixture of palm oil and olive oil was manufactured by the B.J. Johnson Soap Company. It was while working on the “Palmolive” campaign that Claude Hopkins came up with the idea of test marketing. Could Mr. Hopkins be the reason why the humble B.J. Johnson Soap Company of Milwaukee has today become the multinational Colgate Palmolive Corporation?
Claude would go on to use the same strategies of seduction and test marketing at the Pepsodent Company (to this very day producers of toothpaste and oral care products). His sales results were so exceptional that he became a shareholder at Pepsodent.
After having dabbled in all advertising genres and using every marketing tool available at that time, Hopkins never turned his nose up at mail-order sales and direct advertising. These two strategies have always been more or less reviled by agencies since the dawn of the industry. However, no other advertising method can offer an immediate validation of its own success or failure quite like direct marketing. This is the reason why Hopkins considered direct mailing to be the litmus test of any advertising campaign’s effectiveness (at least in terms of sheer sales).
Albert Lasker is considered to be the founding father of modern advertising. He had started out working as an office boy for Lord & Thomas (the world famous Chicago agency founded in 1873) and fourteen years later went on to become its majority shareholder. Without Mr. Lasker’s contributions the advertising world would not be what it is today. We owe him a debt of gratitude for the innumerable advancements and concepts that he brought to the industry. Mr. Lasker clearly defined the roles of agency/client, and he is responsible for keeping the commission rate for agencies at 15%. In addition Albert continually asked himself existential questions regarding advertising (What exactly is advertising?). He had struggled to find any satisfactory answers to these questions until his fateful encounter with John E. Kennedy. It was Mr. Kennedy who supplied Albert Lasker with the exemplary themes that finally allowed him to excel in both inventing text and copywriting.
We have to thank Albert Lasker for assembling the first ever creative department within an Advertising Agency. He was so meticulous in the selection and training of his team that the copywriters at Lord & Thomas were valued at a premium.
Another fatal encounter was when Albert Lasker met Claude Hopkins (considered one of the most gifted copywriters of all time). Together Lasker and Hopkins collaborated on some pioneering and trailblazing campaigns that to this very day are cited as examples and solutions to marketing problems. A case in point is that of Sunkist Growers. Sunkist was trying to sell oranges in a market inundated with oranges (the orange market in California was so oversaturated that the state started to intentionally chop down orange trees in order to limit production). Albert and Claude fine-tuned an ad campaign that encouraged people to not only eat oranges, but to squeeze them and drink their juice. The outcome was that the state of California stopped chopping down orange trees and that Americans have become ferocious consumers of orange juice. For Kotex the two copywriters went above and beyond the call of duty. Seeing as their client produced tampons, they organized lessons of feminine hygiene in High Schools all over the USA. In a very short amount of time Lasker and Hopkins turned Lord & Thomas into not just the most important ad agency of their time, but one of the most important of all time.
From 1918 until 1923 Lasker devoted his time to politics and Presidential campaigns. During those years he was worried about losing his leadership of the Advertising field and quickly came back to Lord & Thomas to look after the most demanding clients. Among them were Pepsodent, Luck Strike, and Kimberly Clark.
When the radio became an important means of communication Lasker was one of the early few who understood its commercial potential. He came up with some novel ideas such as sponsored programs and radio shows.
After the death of his wife Flora and after losing a few key clients, Albert Lasker decided to call it quits. He handed in his letter of resignation as President of Lord & Thomas in 1938, and sold the company in 1942 to the top managers of the New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles agencies: respectively Emerson Foote, Fairfax Cone and Don Belding.
What would later go on to become the colossal FCB inherited most of its clients from the old Lord & Thomas (Lasker by this point however was far, far, away from the advertising world). With his second wife, Mary, and through the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation he dedicated his later years to philanthropy. He was a strong promoter of scientific research, with an emphasis on cancerous tumors. This path would be followed many years later by one of his top three managers, Emerson Foote.
Albert Lasker was given the answer to his famous question “what exactly is advertising” by John E. Kennedy in only three words: salesmanship-in-print. Simply put advertising is the ability to sell goods and services through the printed word and consequently via the radio, television, or any other means of communication
John E. Kennedy’s brilliant intuition bore him many fruits. While working for Lord & Thomas his career took off (as well as his salary) and John came up with a fundamental advertising concept: Reason-Why Advertising. He argued that potential consumers needed to be given valid reasons why they should choose one product over another. In other words Mr. Kennedy invented the “Reason-Why”, and later on the “Copy Test”. With these new tools at their disposal the creative department at Lord & Thomas became the power behind the agency. Even more importantly is that these new concepts became diffused in the advertising world and that the copywriters at Lord & Thomas were well sought after by the competition. Some of Lord & Thomas’ copywriters went as far as to open their own agencies: an illustrious example is John Orr Young co-founder of Young & Rubicam.