How I Got to Madison Avenue. And beyond.

As with life, this blog is developing and changing. It began with a lot of stories that occurred on my career path from Albany to Madison Avenue and back.

There were some similarities to the AMC series "Mad Men," and then I went even farther back in time with a somewhat fictionalized version of growing up in Troy's Little Italy.

And now, a new development. As my free lance advertising and marketing career winds down, I'm becoming more interested in the theatre arts that my father and his 3 brothers helped instill in me as I grew up.

As a result, I've volunteered to help promote the Theatre Institute at Sage, and now, to continue a long-interrupted desire to be behind the proscenium, I've joined the newly formed Troy Civic Theatre, and was actually fortunate enough to appear in their first production.

So, I hope you'll enjoy the new stories that will develop from this latest turn.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rule Breaking

I'm not one of those rebels who think every rule is made to be broken. But if you know the rules, really know the rules, sometimes breaking them at the right time can be the right thing to do.

I'm not talking about the ten commandments, of course.

I'm talking about matters of much less significance – grammar, and advertising, specifically.

I've had a lot of fun and entertained a lot of people with my “How To Write Good” exercise, which revels in breaking the rules of grammar for fun.

Occasionally, a client will have rules that the creative team is told never to break. Well, that's just too tempting for a couple of wise guys masquerading as art director and copywriter.

Here's how we broke a big rule for a big client, and made them love it.

Strictly Air France

Advertisers spend lots of money creating a “look” for all their exposure. Logo, layout format, colors, style, typefaces – the rules are usually in a “style book,” a manual for anyone and everyone who has anything to do with designing, producing and printing the company's material.

Some are more rigid than others. Since Air France's look was determined in Paris, we at K&E, responsible for advertising the airline to Americans, had no say in changing it. The headline and text typefaces were set, the logo and theme were set, and, the cardinal rule was that there be only one illustration or photo. One.

This "capabilities" ad that we prepared, with a dramatic shot of the supersonic Concorde, is a good example. It follows the style book exactly.

But the art director, Gerry Severson, and I had an idea that required breaking the cardinal rule. We were assigned an ad for an Air France service called “Flexi-Plan.” The feature allowed – encouraged – American travelers to Paris to design their own tours based on their budgets, interests and time.

To us, the idea screamed for specific, multiple pictures of Paris's most famous landmark. So, we assembled nine of the thousands of stock photos of the Eiffel Tower into that space that was supposed to only have one, and presented the layout with a headline that, while seeming to contradict the multiple illustration, actually reinforced it.

To our surprise and joy, the client was as discerning as we had hoped, and this ad ran in major magazines that year.

Next time: Move fast or lose it.

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