ENERGY V STYLE

This weekend a book I’d been waiting a long time for arrived from Amazon.

It cost $200 dollars and weighs 11 lbs.

It’s called Ally & Gargano.

It’s about the New York agency, Carl Ally, that later changed its name.

I wanted the book because Carl Ally was a very influential agency for me.

When I went to art school in New York, they had just begun offering advertising classes.

There was no such thing as advertising teachers.

So my college sent us into Manhattan, to learn from the professionals.

The theory was that we’d learn all the graphic crafts by day, at art school: design, illustration, typography, photography, film, animation.

But we’d learn the actual thinking from the best in the business.

So one evening a week, every week, for two years, we trained at ad agencies.

My final year was spent mainly with Mike Tesch at Carl Ally.

Mike Tesch did the Federal Express campaign ‘When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be There Overnight’.

One of the best TV ad campaigns, ever.

In the early days, I learned everything about advertising from Mike.

So I couldn’t wait to open the book.

I made a cup of tea, sat down and settled in.

Several hours later, I wondered what went wrong.

I’d finished the book, and I felt flat.

One of the most exciting ad agencies ever, and I felt flat.

Then I looked across the table at another huge book.

George Lois’s “The Art Of Advertising”.

George Lois’s book is a jumble of different campaigns.

It has about eight just on the front cover.

Andy Warhol drowning in a can of tomato soup, Mohammed Ali full of arrows, the President of the USA with a dummy on his lap.

At least it looks fun.

It has energy.

It has buzz.

Maybe it isn’t classy and stylish, but it’s full of life.

You can’t wait to open it.

Ally & Gargano is the opposite.

It’s a massive black, solid tome.

With nothing on the front except the name ‘Ally & Gargano’ in white.

Like a gravestone.

This is a book that takes itself very seriously.

A book that belongs in a library, or a museum.

And it’s written the same way.

Lois’s book is written fast and fun.

Stories and jokes tumbling over each other.

Press ads, commercials, logos, magazine covers, record albums, straplines, small space ads, restaurant menus, packaging.

Here is a guy whose book is just full of great stuff you gotta hear.

Whereas in the Ally & Gargano book everything is set out very formally.

One press ad per page.

Another press ad on the next page.

Another press ad on the next page.

Then some writing.

Then another press ad on the next page.

It’s like visiting a museum.

Looking at those great ads presented this way robs them of life.

Like preserving them in a jar of formaldehyde.

This is taking advertising so seriously you kill it.

I look at those ads now, each one presented as if it was a jewel, and almost wonder what the fuss was about.

The whole book is put together by Amil Gargano.

The art director who was one of the three founders.

Carl Ally was the account man, Jim Durfee was the writer.

The whole book is Amil Gargano writing about what a pain in the arse Carl Ally was.

Maybe so.

But you can see, without Carl Ally there’s no life there.

Just style.

Like a beautifully dressed corpse.

The lesson is, the most important thing is energy.

Without that you don’t have life.