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, January 29, 2012

Brainstorming -- Does It Work, Or not?

According to Jonah Lehrer's article, "Groupthink," in the January 30th issue of The New Yorker, the idea of brainstorming (groups of people thinking out loud with no negativity) was the brainchild of one adman – Alex Osborn, in the late 1940's. He doesn't say this in the article, but I suppose, right there, since the idea is the product of just one man's brain, that Lehrer has cast doubt on the concept from the beginning.

By the way, Alex is the Osborn in one of advertising's great agencies, Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn, which sounded like a trunk falling downstairs, according to Fred Allen, the irascible comedian from the golden age of radio.

Anyway, Lehrer goes on to cite research that claims to prove that brainstorming really doesn't work.

The problem for me in the article is that all of the research cited has nothing to do with creative advertising.

That got me thinking, sitting here alone incidentally, about whether it works in advertising or not. I'll tell you what I know about the subject, and then let you decide.

My best work, I believe, as a writer and advertising campaign conceptualizer, comes from a particular kind of brainstorming. Not a roomful of people, but just two people. And not just any two people.

Good, even great ads, at least in my experience (which runs continually from 1960 to, hopefully, tomorrow), are the result of collaboration between a specific kind of art director and a specific kind of copywriter.

What are those specifics? Art directors have to be as literate as they are visual, copywriters have to be as visual as they are literate.

The best art directors I've worked with, and I number them at just 3 in a half century, could write headlines that pushed me to top them. Some of them were so good, that I couldn't do better. And sometimes, I would be able to suggest a visual that they couldn't top. And sometimes, when the ad was completed, we couldn't tell who came up with what.

Here are some headlines from some of “my” ads. I dare you to identify whether the art director or the copywriter – or both – wrote them.

For Air France Alpine Ski Package: “Peaks of Perfection.”

For Puerto Rico Industrial Development: “The Industrial Evolution of Puerto Rico.”

For a savings bank: “Money Talks. Save Some Before It Says Goodbye.”

For a manufacturer of teflon-coated industrial products: “We Scoff At H2SO4.”

For a building supply chain: “We Share Your Passion.”

For a line of wine coolers: “Taste it all.”

For a public employee union: “The Of NY”

No comments:

Post a Comment