Thursday, December 4, 2008

Back to the circus/Fave books #1

Spending the next few days working on the identity for Stacy's company. In the process of finding all the circus reference stuff, spent some time on, which I love, and in wandering around, decided to pick up first edition copies - mostly inexpensive - of a handful of books that were world changers for me.

The world's best advertising book. Bill Bernbach is the Abraham of advertising, he inspired so many of us, and this is "his book," or what it might have been. Nobody knows. He was working on it when he died, in 1982. It had been his secret project. He had only written the dedication - which alone is worth the price. Bob Levenson, a friend and copywriter for Bernbach, who eventually rose to Chairman, worked with Bernbach's widow and assembled it out of Bernbach's work, speeches, articles by and about him, interviews, notes.

For Bernbach, persuasion was not a science, but an art. Before Bernbach, "layout men" would get copy slid under their door. Bernbach put art directors and writers in the same room to think and create together.

"I don't want scientists, " he wrote in 1947, to the owners of Grey Advertising, two years before he left to start Doyle Dane Bernbach. "I don't want academicians. I don't want people who do the right thing. I want people who do inspiring things."

Here's one of their early Volkswagen ads and an ad it might have run alongside.

If Bernbach had only his creative reputation, that would be enough, but he was also one of the first to suggest that people working in communication have a larger responsibility, that we are connected to the health of the world, and that who and what we work for matters.

How could the Chairman and Founder of a worldwide advertising network open his book with a quote from art critic Kenneth Clark's Civilization, "I think we should remember we are part of a great whole, which for convenience we call nature. All living things are our brothers and sisters."

His dedication closes:

We in the communications field have developed unprecedented skills in mass persuasion. You and I can no longer isolate our lives. It just won't work. What happens to society is going to affect us with ever-increasing rapidity... We must ally ourselves with great ideas and carry them to the public. We must practice our skills in behalf of society. We must not just believe in what we sell. We must sell what we believe in.

Leo is getting it.

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