A few months ago, I got a call from a TV producer.
They were about to start showing the series ‘Mad Men’, showing what advertising was like in the 60s in New York.
They wanted to put together a programme on David Ogilvy to show beforehand.
They wanted Ogilvy because he was a Brit, and worked his way up to become one of the giants of Madison Avenue.
She wanted to interview me for the show because I had been learning and working in advertising in New York at that time.
She wanted me to say how fabulous we all thought David Ogilvy was.
I told her I had a problem with that.
For me Ogilvy was a dinosaur.
He was the end of an era.
He represented what advertising used to be.
When advertisers patronised punters and told them, “Wear a Hathaway shirt and you too can enter the romantic world of the man with the mysterious eye patch.”
That’s how advertising had always been.
Pretence, designed to fool the gullible.
No doubt Ogilvy was massively successful.
But New York advertising was split into two groups.
You were either Ogilvy or Bernbach.
Bernbach was starting a revolution.
Truth in advertising.
Don’t tell people this shirt will fulfil your wildest fantasies, turn you into James Bond, make women fall at your feet, and make your boss give you a rise.
Tell them the actual advantages this shirt has over other shirts.
But only the truth.
And tell them in an amusing, memorable way.
And let them decide.
And don’t just use perfect looking WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) in the advertising.
Don’t tell everyone to aspire to something they can never be.
Use real people, Italians, Chinese, Jews, Blacks.
The people that actually lived in New York.
If you showed them in advertising they’d feel good about themselves.
Instead of feeling bad, and wishing they were something else.
For the first time, Bernbach showed everyone that advertising could be a force for good.
Instead of just a shoddy way to make money.
So, I said to the producer, if you want me to come on and talk about Bernbach I will.
But of course, that wasn’t the programme she had in mind.