Buddha & Bernbach




What do Buddha and Bill Bernbach have in common?

See if you can notice a similarity in these two stories.


Thousands of years ago, Buddha said what was keeping people’s minds enslaved was worshipping wooden idols on top of alters.

You can’t think for yourself while you’re letting someone else do your thinking for you.

All you can do is try to copy what they thought.

Buddha said people should free their minds..

They couldn’t become enlightened until they stop worshipping idols.

The people knew Buddha was a great and wise man.

In fact, they thought that Buddha was so enlightened that maybe he was a god.

A man like that should be listened to and obeyed.

So they made statues of Buddha.

And put them on alters.

And worshipped them.


Do you get the feeling, as I do, that they missed the point of what Buddha was saying?


Many years later Bill Bernbach took a look around advertising and saw people worshipping conventional thinking.

All the rules that produced the same old dull, boring, hard-sell advertising.

He said we should change it, free our minds up to be more creative.

To question the way everything had been done.

To do things differently.

One of the first things he questioned was why the copywriters sat on a separate floor to the art department.

He thought he could put art-assistants together with copywriters.

To make a two-person creative unit, a ‘team’.

It had never been done before, and it worked really well.

Gradually everyone copied it.

And it stopped being unusual and different.

It became conventional thinking for the advertising industry.

Every advertising agency creative department in the world is now made up of ‘teams’.

In fact nowadays, you can’t get a job unless you’re part of a ‘team’.

Art schools put their students into ‘teams’ before they even let them graduate.

Their end-of-degree shows are done in ‘teams’.

Last week a student told me that an agency had said they wouldn’t even see his portfolio unless he could find a partner and become part of a team.


Do you get the feeling, as I do, that they’ve missed the point of what Bill Bernbach was saying?