It is no surprise that the name at the top of Ad Age’s Top 100 Advertising People of the 20th Century would make my list as well.
Copies of his team’s work hang above my desk at the office after all.
(creative, copywriter, ad man, advertising legend)
I would sadly venture to say that if you polled many of today’s marketing talent, few could tell you who William Bernbach is or what he’s done for our profession. It’s funny how we so quickly forget about those who carved the path for us and showed us the way.
So, I will spare you the preachy history lesson for once. I’m sure Bernbach will get plenty of air time from me in future work. But let’s take a quick look.
Bernbach is credited with introducing the idea of having creatives and copywriters work together on teams. He was the first to pair them up on projects instead of having them live in different departments, which was the norm in his day.
The simplicity of some of his most notable campaigns is often pointed to as an example of the fundamental shift that happened in creative and advertising in the 1960s.
He has given the world some of its most iconic ads:
- Volkswagen’s “Think Small” and “Lemon”
- “Mikey” for Life Cereal
- “Gorilla” for American Tourister luggage
And even more fundamentally, Bernbach refocused advertising on creating connections with the audience. He pushed his people to understand how products related to their users, what thoughts and emotions came into play before deciding how best to communicate those elements.
Bernbach helped bring the art back to advertising.
He famously wrote:
“There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this sort or that long. They can tell you that body copy should be broken up for easier reading. They can give you fact after fact after fact. They are the scientists of advertising. But there’s one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art. “
So it should be no surprise that Bernbach inspires me.
It is because of him that I find myself in a profession that challenges me both mentally and creatively. It is because of him that I pride myself on creating cross-functional collaborative teams. It is because of him that I have always pushed to be and develop multi-faceted marketer who can write, create and strategize…instead of a one-trick pony.
Thank you for speaking out and for not being ok with the status quo. You pushed us, and our profession, to be something more. I hope myself and the generations of marketers that follow me hold onto your legacy and make your proud.