Entries Tagged 'Copywriting' ↓

Funny copywriting blog


That’s the address of Kelly Parkinson’s copy blog. With topics like the 34 stages of editorial enlightenment and a 7-point check list to bring your about page up to code, this one is fascinating and funny. She also has a marketing guru dog. Recommended.

Ad Age’s Advertising Century — The 100 Best People

Ad Age has compiled an impressive list of the 100 best ad people. It includes celebs like Steve Jobs, Jerry Della Femina, George Lois, Mary Wells Lawrence*, Shirley Polykoff, Bill Bernbach, but also to me, some odd choices like — yikes — Arthur Godfrey.

I have worked for or met three of these people. The one I merely met was John Caples but with the internet’s enthusiasm for 10,000-word squeeze pages, he seems as contemporary now as he was when started in direct response in the 1920’s. (He wrote, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano.”) The other two were the BBDO powerhouses Allen Rosenshine and Phil Dusenberry. (If this “corrects” his name to boysenberry, I’ll scream.)

Great list to peruse to see which advertising legends you’re familiar with. I’d go into chapter and verse about my dealings with Messrs Rosenshine and Dusenberry, but as my kids already ask me, “What was Professor Shakespeare like in theater class, Dad?” I think I’ll save that for another time.

*Hi, Pam. If this made sense to you, you know who are.

World’s Smallest Movie

It’s done by and for IBM, which claims that the pixels in the commercial are individual atoms. I don’t really believe that, but the Guinness Book of Records says it’s the world’s smallest stop-action movie.

It’s by Ogilvy Mather New York.

The blog where I saw this says this is one of the ten best ads of 2014. Definitely worth visiting. (I’m old school — an ad is print, not video. Oh well.)

Breakthrough visual ads

Creative and funny.

I never knew Denver was all that dry. Please don’t let Tucson Water folks see this. My Arizona trucker’s coffee mug holds four ounces.

This blog has Seventy Creative Advertisements that Make You Look Twice.

The images are terrific, weird and frankly sometimes scary:

Hope no one takes this literally.

This all looks like award-show work.This is from hongkiat.com, a design and webmaster blog with a heavy emphasis on tech. These print ad images are the least tech things discussed. There’s some great SEO advice here too as well as security, like why everything on your smartphone must be erased before you sell it. (Probably because your entire life is on the beeping sucker?)

Interesting blog about freelance writing

It’s by Loolwa Khazzoom. Good straight-forward clear writing and good I-wish-I’d-asked-that interview questions.

She writes about everything going easily over into the Too Much Information border. She does not shave her legs, thank-you and will chase you down if you annoy on the road. Quite scary. She’s posted a very sweet picture of herself too; you can’t judge a book etc.

I’m sure there are disadvantages to having a name like Loolwa Khazzoom, but one advantage is you can be sure no one else has taken your dot com website url ahead of you. Yeah, try that with “johngrant.com.” Even Googling myself as a writer I’m an apparently famous UK sci-fi writer. (No, I haven’t read any of his stuff.) I was burned by my John-Doe-type name years ago now when I read the marvelously scary book Silence of the Lambs. When I saw the movie which came out a zillion years later — there’s great question to research: why did they wait so long? — I said a silent prayer that that creep Clarice is tracking down would not be named Jame Gumb/John Grant. (The initials figure in the plot.) No such luck. Great movie but it bothered me quite a bit. At least I’m not sharing a name with the lead character, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. You would definitely get crank calls, necessitating an unlisted phone number.

Gomes-Loew Neon Sign

It used to be the coolest thing any creative — whether art director or copywriter — could have was a Gomes Loew fire-engine-red neon sign.

Gomes-Loew Productions, founded by Dick Loew and George Gomes, was a TV commercial production house famous for their big-screen movie look and — to a copywriter at least — their technically tricky shots. (I remember one shot where, as they panned right there was a beautiful oak beam — needed I think for a cut — but as the camera moved back over the same area, the cut wasn’t needed and so, magically, the beam was gone.)

Dick Loew directed several of my TV commercials. They looked great then; they look great now. I remember a corner-office executive attended at least one of the TV commercial shoots. Working with Gomes-Loew for a young copywriter, was definitely big time.

Months later, one afternoon in the autumn someone called to check on the spelling of my name. “Grant, G-R-A-N-T” “What’s this for?” I asked. “A Christmas gift” they said. Neither the gift nor the giver was explained any further.

Some weeks later I got another call.

“There’s something for you, here at the front desk.”

“I hope it isn’t breakable” I said, clueless.

“I think it is breakable” the young lady said.

It was yes! my name in neon. A Gomes-Loew neon sign.

Though the sign was kind of cool, it wasn’t something a grown-up would have in their office, was it?

Yes, it is. For my boss, his boss and his boss’s boss all had these in their offices.

And often they were on, blazing fire-engine red in even the most brightly lit office.

Several years later, while arranging a hanging plant?, I moved my arm back and realized I had broken the most valuable thing in the room, maybe the apartment. My Gomes-Loew sign. I immediately had it repaired probably by the same company that had made it, located on the West Side of Manhattan.

“What was your sign filled with, buddy?”

“I don’t know. Neon, maybe.”

What color was it”


“That’s neon, then. If you want, we can fill it with other gases. Helium for green, or argon for blue. There are other colors too: white, pink, yellow, whatever you want.”

I considered refilling the sign with helium for a green St. Paddy’s Day look. Except then it would appear I had ordered my own fake Gomes-Loew sign, and I had not been given a Gomes-Lowe one. Then everyone I worked with would have commented that it wasn’t real. I really had no color choice: I had it refilled with neon.

Mad Women, the Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue*

Yes, Ratazzi’s was the big O&M hangout. David Ogilvy probably didn’t carry cash around with him in his own company. Maybe to Mr. Ogilvy, the print ad was the highest form of advertising craft and TV was the scruffy stepchild. (Reportedly, D.O. hid his TV in his wine cellar.) Copywriters were the idea people at Ogilvy and art directors made it look good.

Apparently, Doyle Dane Bernbach’s idea of creative teams comprised of writers and art directors was big news in the 60’s, and according to Ms. Maas pretty shocking to the old guard. However, due to a comment by someone I respect online, I’m leery of taking this book as gospel. Was Doyle the only major agency using creative teams? I don’t know.

When I entered the business, teams were used everywhere, even by some pretty stodgy agencies.

While the book chronicles her real struggles as a second-class citizen in a sexist industry, the average non-advertising person may read this book quite differently. She had no computer, internet or iPhone. (As the GEICO commercial points out, Paul Revere’s life would have been easier too with a cell phone.)

In fact, only by comparing herself to the super rich like David Ogilvy, does Ms. Maas appear struggling in a cruel world. Striving, yes; struggling, no. She has a live-in maid. Her children go to the best private schools in the city. Her place on Park Avenue sounds lovely. I appreciate her candor, but omitting some of the perks of her life would have made her thesis of struggling working girl in the big scary city more convincing. As it is, it’s kinda “poor little rich girl”– which was the well-deserved nickname for Gloria Vanderbilt. She did not make her fortune from selling blue jeans.

* “In the 60’s and beyond.” Too much title for this post. Ms. Maas is a long copy person.

Mad Men is Hooey

OK, OK, I admit it. I tried to like this hip series about advertising in the early 60’s set in a large NYC ad agency on Madison Avenue.

But Don Draper and friends and lovers just don’t do it for me. Draper — judging by what’s does in the big client meetings is a copywriter. But his strait-laced B school manners make me think of him as an account guy. Somehow, he single-handedly saves big accounts by pulling all-nighters with a bottle of Scotch and his nubile secretary.

It’s nothing I’ve ever seen or lived. The show’s writer apparently was in the media department at BBDO. I was in the creative department at the same agency, I guess, a long time later.

I feel like a test pilot watching a sci-fi movie about space travel, except this sage stretches not far in the future but far in the past.

Or as Jane Maas in her book Mad Women, puts it “Nobody drank in the morning.”

I didn’t know anyone who did. I hung out with teetotalers? I don’t think so. Two of my friends and co-workers died of drink before they reached their 50’s. This is a memoir by a key player at Ogilvy Mather during the Mad Men era who went on to bigger things at Wells Rich Greene. (While the narrative seems to pull no punches, the change in creative style between package goods at O&M, as described in the book, to WRG must have been huge. How do you just go merrily straight from one to the other??)

As you might expect given that it’s written by a legendary copywriter, it is compulsively readable and highly recommended.

The other thing is that Mad Men drinkers seem to function pretty darn well. They don’t fall out of their chairs in meetings. Or black out on phone calls.

The Antisemitism of clients in the Mad Men show seems false, too. In most agencies, just assume everyone is Jewish and do your job. Think early Hollywood: Sam Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg — none of them were in the church choir.

Another book debunking Mad Men is The Real Mad Men. It’s about the creative revolution in advertising in the 60’s, which is more interesting to ad professionals than the fictional TV show, anyway.

For more on the legendary advertising of the time, see When Advertising Tried Harder. Spoiler alert: it contains more than a few killer Volkswagen ads.

I learn of the deaths of two ad people from BBDO.

In writing to my advertising friends at BBDO, I have learned of two copywriters that I worked with who passed away a while ago.

One was Bob Mallin, a boss of mine at BBDO. He died in Dobbs Ferry, NY at the age of 51. I do not know the date of his death, so I’m guessing 1995. He was a longtime BBDO copywriter who became an Associate Creative Director. He had been to rehab for alcohol, but relapsed. Terrible news.

The other death was another Bob, Bob Smith who was the best man at my wedding. He was one of my closest friends and all my BBDO stories, it seems, include him. (My other close friend at BBDO was Al Merrin who as far as I know is still with us and still doing well at BBDO.) Bob Smith was simply the world’s nicest guy and I can still see his smile and hear his voice. He was creative; he was funny; he was my friend. I miss him right now.

Bob Smith apparently died in the early 1990’s possibly soon after I last spoke with him. Over the years I knew him, I could see the growing effects of his drinking, but denied the seriousness of them. He was in LA working as a marketing guy for a major hotel, possibly Marriott. He was from Long Beach, California and had the support of his family there. From what I heard, he did not enter rehab, but tried to cut back on his drinking. Apparently, he died alone at his residence. A damn good copywriter. An enormous personal loss for all of us who knew him.

Requiescat in pacem. Vita brevis.

(My apologies for the lack of detail in this post, but I have been unable to find any published obituaries.)

Rabbits’ Feet Selling What?

I have seen an amazing tv commercial. It’s a commercial that sells the charitable work of veterinarians reattaching rabbit’s feet back to their original owners.Uh-huh. Because?

Because people don’t need luck any more now that they have Traveler’s Insurance.

The ad agency is Fallon in Minneapolis. It’s was realized on film by Tim Godsall at Biscuit Filmworks, as reported in Adweek.

Two Deans, Hanson and Buckhorn, art directed and wrote it. For the complete credits for this creative gem, go to adforum.com.

Some comment on the commercial here and here.

At first viewing, I thought the bunnies were wearing colored bandages. Now that I get it duh! I am a little squeamish myself. (Yep, I know what a lucky rabbit’s foot is,. I just didn’t want to take the clever idea that far.)