Saturday, 25 February 2012

Andrew Cracknell – The Real Mad Men 2011

It starts with an interesting forewaord by Sir John Hegarty, that reminds us, why it is important to look at advertising history: “’history isn’t about the past, it’s about the future’.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.7).

And if this book wouldn’t do anything else, it shows why it is worth working in advertising, despite all the bad things it does: the problem is not advertising itself.

“Actually, he problem so many ad people had with Reeves was not so much the USP itself, it was the way he went about implementing it and his utter indifference to the wider effect of his advertising on the public.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.26). “But many inside advertising would argue that this soulless hard-sell approach was working for its advertisers at the expense of advertising as a whole.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.30).

This book shows, that advertising doesn’t have to make the world a worse place. Just as it has the potential to make the world a horrible place, it can also make it a little better: “his (Bernbach’s) beliefs were not just about performance, efficacy and success, but about the role of advertising as an intrusive force for better or for worse in the life of contemporary society.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.12).Bernbach: “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarise that society. We can brutalise it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.13).

For example the campaign for Mazzen: ‘You don’t have to be Jewish’: “In one large picture and one simple line they linked one minority - the Jews – to all the other emerging minorities making their presence felt.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.66). “What these ads were doing was signalling a changed relationship between those who would sell and those who would buy. A relationship based not just on respect for the people’s taste but for their intelligence and ability to discern what really mattered in their lives from the purely transitory.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.68). “Hey, we’re (advertiser and consumer) all in this together; you know we’re going to try and sell you something – let’s both enjoy the process.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.13).

The respect for the consumer, brings with it that you should not bore him or her: “Gage, too, carried into DDB this almost neurotic desire to be fresh every time.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.60).

And this brings pride in what the agency does: “There was a new pride – the obsequious ad hustler was dead. In his lace was the assertive new ad man who would happily tell you tha you may know all abou your product, but don’t even think about telling him anything about advertising.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.122).

To sum up:
“You didn’t drive a VW or a Volvo, smoke B&H 100s, holiday in Jamaica, eat at Horn and Hardert or rent a car from Avis because you aspired to it or because you got the girl made you the envy of your neighbours. You did it because it was the clever thing to do. Advertising (…) where it used to flatter your status or your apparent wealth, now I flattered your intelligence. (…) DDB and PKL and Carl Ally and the many that followed removed banality and aspiration from advertising.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.219).

Last but not least the book gives an interesting account of the rise of the holding company by Marion Harper: “So when one advertising agency acquired another, any conflict would have to be resolved, and usually this meant that the smaller of the conflicting accounts would be resigned. This immediately reduced the value of the merger, with two plus two often making no more than three. Then Harper, in his words, ‘turned the management ladder sideways’ and started a practice where the acquired agency would operate independently of the acquiring agency, but they would be financially bound by a holding company above them, the beneficiary of their joint profits. Ridiculously simple. But, amazingly, for advertising it was completely original. (…) Harper figured that though agencies supplied clients with ancillary services like research, promotions advice and publicity, they never charged for them. Because they were located within the agency and were delivered largely by the same team who delivered their advertising, the client perception was that they weren’t a separate service and there should not be a significant fee for them. So his idea was that specialist companies (…) should be set up.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.184).

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