The last couple of days I've been in an interesting email dialogue with my old bosses from the Martin Agency, Jerry Torchia and Mike Hughes. We've been talking about the recent episode of This American Life where legendary copywriter Julian Koenig complains about George Lois stealing all his best ideas.
If you're fascinated with that era of advertising (I am!), you'll probably enjoy the episode. I found it funny and sad and thought-provoking about the nature of our business.
You might also enjoy the most recent addition to the email chain from another mentor of mine, legendary Ad Man Harry Jacobs:
The discussion about the Koenig/Lois video is interesting. I’m happy to say it’s just another piece of fascination with the '60s and '70s. The Bauhaus lives on.
I joined my first agency in 1952, not knowing a lot about how to make ads. But a year or so later, I began to see the work of George Lois appearing in Art Direction magazine. I was taken by it. He was my first great influence. Then there was Lou Dorfsman and Herb Lubalin. All three of them set the stage for my future. So I’m very grateful for the part those three played in my career. Dorfsman and Lubalin became good friends. Lois snubbed me once during my first visit to the Art Directors Show, but I still think he was a brilliant designer and art director.
The '60s will probably go down as the greatest era of advertising. And it deserves that honor. Think of all the books that have been written about it: Bill Bernbach’s book, Helmut Krone’s, Lois has done three himself (naturally), Dorfsman/CBS, Lubalin, the Book of Gossage, Richard Gilbert’s Marching Up Madison Avenue, and more. Even Gargano is coming out with a new one. And if all this isn’t enough, there’s that corny sex show on TV, “Mad Men.” I mean, it’s hard to believe the Digital Age will be covered like that.
And the debate about personalities doesn’t stop with writers and art directors. What about agencies? The debate about Ogilvy and Bernbach is still alive. Along comes Bernbach’s PR person, Doris Willens, trying to cash in on things she doesn’t know well. Who cares whether Bernbach wrote a lot of copy. What the man did was grow the most important and influential agency in the world. The place was loaded with great talent. I could probably name 20 to 40 writers and art directors out of that agency who became well known to most all of us. That’s more than Ogilvy. Other than Ogilvy himself, the only person I can think of was David McCall. David Ogilvy was a solo act. Before Doyle Dane Bernbach bought my agency (Cargill, Wilson & Acree), Bill Bernbach insisted on seeing all of our work. So I had to go to New York and present to Bernbach, one-on-one, in a conference room without anyone else there. It was a fabulous experience. Took me an hour and ten minutes. His critique and gratitude was wonderful. He became a friend after that. I had lunch and dinner on occasion. What a man, ego and all!
I’m one of those guys who’s grateful for that era. So much change, so many great people to learn from: Bob Gage (there’ll never be another like him), Amil Gargano, Ralph Ammirati, Ed McCabe, Bob Levenson, Carl Ally, Chick McKinney, George Lois, Mary Wells, Julian Koenig, Bert Steinhauser, Sam Scali, Ron Rosenfeld, just to name a few. I’m not sure any of us worked for money. We just had a great time.
Hey, how do we turn the clock back?
I'm not quite ready to turn the clock back - nothing beats now, imho - but I gotta hand to these guys. They invented something. They found a way to make commerce artful.