Remembering good old advertising

Do you remember the good old days of advertising, when a message was put to press (or later, on TV),

Do you remember the good old days of advertising, when a message was put to press (or later, on TV), in which a manufacturer encouraged you to buy his product?

There would usually be an appropriate headline, a message, an illustration and some contact details, or information about where the product could be bought. It was nearly always clear, simple and easy to understand — three of the main points of good advertising — don’t get fussy or cluttered, keep it to a positive message and don’t try to be too clever.

Advertisers need to remember that not everyone they are aiming at is as clever as they think they are, and anything that looks a bit complicated won’t be read or absorbed by readers or watchers, which amounts to money wasted by the advertising manufacturer.

A prime example of the simple advertisement with maximum impact, was the famous one published for Rolls Royce and produced by David Ogilvy, possibly the most clever ad-man of them all. In fact, his memorable headline is officially classed as the greatest in advertising history!

The headline read, “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock.” It says it all doesn’t it; you have an immediate mental image of this luxury car, whisper quiet as no other car can be, with leather upholstery, mahogany dashboard and powerful motor. If you have the money, you’d be down at your local Rolls Royce showroom as quickly as you can, to get one for yourself. By the way, this ad for the Silver Cloud appeared in 1959, and the car cost US$13,995 at the time!

Many other excellent advertisements appeared at this time, all of them to-the-point, leaving no room for misunderstanding about what was being sold, what it did or how much it cost. There were a lot of really clever and innovative designers working to get their clients product sold rather than that of their competitors, and they made a good job of it.

Today unfortunately, things seem to have gone downhill; or perhaps a lot of designers have become too clever for their own good and they produce brilliant design ideas, showing off their own skills, but they forget that there is a product involved here somewhere, which the client is paying to be sold. There are several advertisements appearing on television right now emphasising the point I’m trying to make.

One shows a person dressed in a duck suit skate-boarding down a hill, on a steep and winding surface, all very skilful and I am sure quite dangerous, but I fail to see how the message is supposed to sell the product, which happens to be a well-known brand of fried chicken. I felt it was more a demonstration of the filming skills of the ad agency, than a selling message for the product.

Another odd one is the advertisement for a major insurance company, in which a little animal (that might be a prairie dog), is drinking a lot of coffee, to the surprise of the human on screen with him. What this has to do with selling insurance is beyond me, though again, the animation of the little animal is very well done — what a clever film maker!

Finally, because of space limits, there is the latest advertisement from a major Australian supermarket chain which actually does have a message relevant to the product, (of prices being down), but for some reason the agency has made it in such an amateurish way my next door neighbour could have made it more professionally!

I imagine the agency was trying to give the message a ‘homely’ feel, but in this instance that fails miserably, with poor acting and terrible singing. Again, it seems to me we have here a film maker more interested in the effect he was aiming for than the selling of the message, and he failed on both counts!

Advertising is something most of us hate at the best of times, but it is sad that so many of the standards of the old agencies have made it all much worse than it needs to be — show me a Rolls Royce ad any day of the week!

Tell us, do you have a favourite ad, from recent times or from decades ago?

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