‘What was the most effective headline I ever wrote? ‘Dear Mrs Robinson’.
Without a scrap of work to show, Lore Parker’s letter to Phyllis Robinson landed her a job as copywriter in the best ad agency on the planet.
She stayed nearly thirty years.
As with the subjects with all of these posts, the work feature is just a fraction of their output.
So although I wish I could unearth more of her work, Lore’s talk on what it’s like to work at DDB is worth the admission price alone.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WORK AT DDB?
A Talk By Lore Parker, Copy Supervisor, DDB, October 15th 1966.
“Well, a few months ago many of you heard Bill Bernbach talk to you about the philosophy of his agency. What DDB looks like from the top. I thought perhaps you might be interested to know what DDB looks like from inside.
You heard from the captain on the ship’s bridge. Today you will hear from one of the stokers in the boiler-room.
If this sounds as if we work very hard at DDB, that’s absolutely right. It comes as no surprise to many people who think that the creative life at DDB is one round of fun-and-games.
We often get applicants for copy or art directors’ jobs who tell us, “All my life I’ve dreamed of working at your agency. Here I could really let myself go and do all the crazy, far-out, funny, charming, entertaining things I really want to do.”
And, they show us some sample ads they did especially for us that are crazy, far-out, funny, charming, entertaining — and don’t sell a thing.
The truth is that in the Creative Department at DDB we observe stricter disciplines and pour forth more blood, sweat and tears over each campaign than in any other agency I know.
Some agencies concentrate on searching out a strong selling argument. And stop there.
Other agencies — especially some of the young “hot” ones — concentrate on attention-getting, entertaining execution. And they stop there.
Bill Bernbach demands that we do both. Say something meaningful — and say it in a fresh, provocative way.
Now, how does a DDB campaign come about?
When I told Bill Bernbach that I’d been invited to give this talk, I asked him if there was any aspect of the agency’s work that he wanted me to avoid. I said I didn’t want to give away any secrets. He laughed and said “You know very well that our only secret is Ideas. Go ahead and talk about anything you like.” So I’ll tell you exactly how we work.
First of all, how is the Creative Department set up?
Under Mr. Bernbach, who has the title of Creative Director, there is a Copy Chief and a Chief Art Director.
Under the Copy Chief there are several Associate Copy Chiefs, then the Copy Supervisors, the Assistant Copy Supervisors, the Copywriters and the Junior Copywriters. The set-up is similar in the Art Department.
The interesting thing is that all of us below the level of Bill Bernbach — all of us including the Copy Chief and Chief Art Director — carry a full load of an account on which we write and art direct personally.
Our supervisory work is a second responsibility.
So that, at DDB when people get promoted for doing good creative work, they don’t get promoted out of that creative work, into some administrative job. On the contrary, they are assigned more and more important accounts to handle personally.
When a new account comes in, or a new product is given to us by an existing client, a team of copywriter and art director are assigned to it.
Very often Bill Bernbach will make his own choice of creative team.
Sometimes creative people come to him and request to be given a particular account in which they are interested. But mostly assignments are handled by the Manager of the Copy Department and the Manager of the Art Department.
These jobs are distinct from those of Chief Art Director and Copy Chief.
The Chiefs oversee the creative output. The two Managers oversee the practical aspects like assignments, raises, vacations, etc. However, they are both creative men themselves, and Vice-Presidents besides, and like the rest of us, have their own accounts.
The account assignments are quite democratic.
An Art Supervisor V.P. may work with a plain copywriter. Or an Associate Copy Chief with a simple art director. All that matters is how suitable and available each member of the team is for the job.
Once an account has been assigned to a team, it’s “theirs”. Their responsibility and their satisfaction alone.
Many agencies put a whole slew of creative people to work on a problem, each one competing with everyone else. This leads to the attitude: “The chances that my campaign will win are very slight.
So why should I put my heart and soul into it?”
We sometimes interview writers who have worked somewhere for a year and have never had anything published. They are, of course, terribly frustrated.
At DDB we know that each one of us is solely responsible for the accounts assigned to us.
All of it — print, television, outdoor. There are no ‘print writers’ or ‘television writers’.
If an account is too large to be handled by one team, it’s usually broken up by a product.
As, for instance, the VW Station Wagon is handled by a different team from the VW Sedan.
Now what happens? Do the copywriter and art director sit down together and “create”?
First they must get to know their product, their client, their market, their audience, the client’s problems and aims.
A campaign like Avis’ ‘We are No.2, so we try harder’ could never have been done unless the creative people had been thoroughly familiar with Avis’ market position and competitive situation with Hertz.
So the creative team goes to visit the client, talks to the client’s marketing men and product managers and sales managers, often visits the factory.
Back home they sit down with the DDB account group, with the agency’s own marketing and research people, until they have thoroughly soaked up all there is to know about the product.
I personally force myself not to let any campaign ideas bubble up in my mind until I have thoroughly understood the situation. Otherwise I am in danger of making the facts fit the campaign, rather than coming up with a campaign that fits the facts.
Sometimes it happens that a campaign idea will come directly, word-perfect out of the client’s own mouth.
When we first got the Utica Club Beer account, Bill Bernbach sat in on a briefing meeting.
The client described their old-fashioned, slow, careful, superior way of brewing beer, then said “Sometimes I wonder whether it pays to make beer this way.”
Bill Bernbach looked up and said “There’s your headline”.
And the first ad for Utica Club, an ad that was to become an advertising classic, was a long-copy ad with a picture of Utica Club’s president and headline “Sometimes I wonder whether it pays to make beer this way”.
Now, having soaked up information like two sponges, the art director and copywriter sit down together to create a campaign. They usually do their thinking in the art director’s office, so that he can scribble on the big layout pad on his art table while they talk.
It’s not, like at some agencies, the copywriter who writes the entire ad himself and sends his copy to the art director with a ‘copywriter’s rough’ of the illustration, or agencies where the art director will take a beautiful photograph and scribble under it ‘Headline goes here’.
At DDB we work together as equal partners.
Work really consists of nothing but conversation. All we do is talk about the product. We explore directions in which we might go. The copywriter may suggest a visual—the art director may suggest a headline. We bring up ideas, unedited, as they occur to us.
The other partner may say “I don’t think that’s a good idea because…” He may even say “It stinks”. But sometimes he says “Hey, that’s interesting. It suggests something to me that might just…” And they’re off—building a campaign together.
It’s very much like a ping-pong game. We serve balls at each other and return them back and forth. The only difference is that we don’t try to make the other player drop the ball.
The joy is to have your idea returned to you, sharper and better than when you first served it. If your idea-ball remains in play long enough, you may have a campaign. And then both players win.
It is an interesting fact that, after a campaign is done, very often we cannot remember which one of us came up with the original idea. In any case, it doesn’t matter. It’s a cardinal sin at DDB to say ‘My campaign’, it’s always ‘Our campaign’. Credit is shared. Blame is shared. In all my years at DDB I’ve never heard Bernbach ask “Which one of you came up with this?”
I cannot explain to you exactly why this system works.
Why teams of two should be able to produce better advertising than lonely men working by themselves or than teams of three or four or five.
Perhaps it has a parallel in the old American proverb ‘Two’s company. Three’s a crowd.’
The origins of this system are, at least to me, lost in history. I suppose this is the way Bill Bernbach worked with Bob Gage when they were still at Grey together, and that’s the method DDB employees followed when Bill opened his own agency.
We sometimes have visitors sitting in on Art/Copy sessions, to watch us work. They sit and wait for the ‘magic moment’, when a great idea strikes.
They’re always vaguely disappointed. I think they expect us to sit there silently, in a trance, until suddenly a lamp lights over our head and a bell rings. What they actually witness is just two people in intelligent conversation.
A campaign idea usually evolves gradually, unspectacularly. If you’re lucky, it may come in the first couple of hours. More often it takes days, weeks, even months.
Also, different people have different styles. Art Director Bill Taubin delights in solving a crisis overnight. Art Director Helmut Krone will polish and perfect a campaign for six months.
When the campaign is born, it must be approved by the supervisor of the copywriter and the supervisor of the art director.
(If the people concerned are supervisors themselves, that step of course is eliminated.)
Then the campaign gets shown to the account group, and finally to Bill Bernbach. And that is all. There is no Creative Review Board at DDB to see to it that every campaign pleases everybody —and sells nobody!
How, you may ask, how much does the Account Man have to say?
Can he turn down a campaign? Yes, he can, if the campaign does not hit the marketing objective for the product. He cannot turn it down because “it just doesn’t hit him right”.
Some years ago Bill Bernbach and Ned Doyle jointly wrote a classic memo, setting down the responsibilities of the Creative Group and of the Account Group. In effect, account people determine what should be said. But the creative people have full freedom on how to say it.
There are, of course, many occasions when account and creative people are deadlocked. Then there’s only one thing to do — go to Bill Bernbach for a decision. I’ll come back to this subject a little later.
Next question is, how much does the client have to say?
Can he tell the agency that “the campaign just doesn’t hit him right”? Actually, it does not happen as often as you might think, because, our clients — by the very fact that they have selected us as their agency — are usually in sympathy with our way of doing things.
But of course clients do turn down campaigns. Then we ask exactly what they do not like about it. If they convince us, we will go back and do another one. If they do not convince us, we will try to win them over to our point of view.
Never, never do we turn out two, three or half a dozen campaigns for the client to choose from.
We think that is just as bad as a doctor who offers his patient green pills, blue pills and purple pills and asks him to pick.
The client of course must give us his symptom. But we are the professionals who make the diagnosis and prescribe the treatment. If the treatment does not agree with the patient, we will try something else.
But we consider it shirking our responsibility to put the burden of choice on him.
Finally, you will ask, if it is a television campaign, how much does the producer have to say? There is, I think, an unfortunate misconception about the producer’s role at DDB. The word goes that only weak producers can be happy at DDB. Because the art directors and copywriters dictate exactly what they want. I think that is dead wrong.
The producer is the third member of the creative team. He can make or break a commercial. He’s assigned by Don Trevor, Head of TV Production, about the same time the art director and copywriter are assigned.
Usually before the campaign is shown to the account group, it is discussed with the producer. Sometimes the producer will point out problems, and the campaign will be dropped.
Sometimes he’ll make suggestions that make the campaign even better than it was.
In any case, the execution of the campaign is largely in his hands. He is the midwife that delivers the baby. He sets the bid, chooses a production house, supervises the casting, the accessorizing, the set designing, sets up a production schedule, masterminds everything.
At the actual shooting, you can see the two-member teams of Doyle Dane Bernbach expand to three-member teams. Producer, copywriter and art director work together as a triumvirate — consulting with each other, suggesting, criticizing.
The actual spokesman is the producer, whom you will usually find right behind the camera, with the other two members of the team whispering into his ear. The producer gives the actual orders and, more often than not, acts as director.
We rarely hire outside directors, because we three know ourselves just what we want.
The copywriter and art director are of course always present at the shooting.
We’re responsible for our campaign right through to the final detail.
Perhaps that is what some outside producers object to? But the fact is that Doyle Dane Bernbach producers, working this way, win more medals and awards than those at any other agency.
It seems to me that having superior creative material to work with would be a plus for any producer.
Now I am sure you’re most interested to know how Bill Bernbach enters into this creative process.
Two things never cease to amaze me.
One is that, with over 60 accounts in the United States alone, Bill is constantly up-to-date on everything that goes on with every ad and commercial written.
The second thing is that his door is always open. You will find this hard to believe, but the President of a 180 million dollar agency, employing l,300 people, sits in an office with an ever-open door.
If I have a question to ask, or a campaign to be approved, I just walk in.
There is no barricade of secretaries. Bill has half a secretary (he modestly shares her with Ned Doyle), and she sits in a different office and does not even see me.
The only thing that may delay me is a bunch of other creative people, waiting outside Bill’s door with layouts and storyboards under their arms, waiting for his opinion.
I’ve seen Bill avoid interviewers, reporters, phone calls from all kinds of important people — in order to finish discussing a phrase or a photograph with his creative people.
This open-door policy has an amazing psychological effect on us all. It gives us a sense of belonging — of inspiration emanating from the 26th Floor.
I noticed this when I spent two months on a special project at our Dusseldorf office in Germany. Here I was no longer one flight of stairs removed from Bill Bernbach, but 5,000 miles. It took a week by letter to get a reaction from Bill. The personal contact was lost. I felt orphaned, cast-out, and it was much more difficult to do good work.
But that’s not all. Often, when you’re looking for Bill, you’ll find him sitting in an art director’s office, just visiting with the creative team. In his rare spare moments, you may come across him wandering through the creative floor, poking his head into offices and asking how we’re doing on this or that project.
He knows precisely who is working on what.
He remembers every sentence in every ad on every account.
The other day he startled me by telling me verbatim what various people had said in a meeting with a client about six months ago.
These client meetings are really something. Bill will walk in, not knowing anything about the subject of the meeting. He’ll listen attentively, ask a question or two, and five minutes later will be completely up-to-date. From then on he will take over the meeting, and matters which we were unable to settle for an hour will be settled in ten minutes.
Now I must tell you what I think is one of Bill Bernbach’s most significant achievements.
The agency is now seventeen years old — it’s grown from half a million to 180 million dollars in billing,— and yet the high-quality work has just kept flowing.
This is because Bill Bernbach has known how to attract and develop talented people to carry on the work. And because he has let us develop in our own style.
He has not, like some other well-known creative men, tried to impress his own personal way of doing things on his people.
He has no formulas and no rules. He does not tell us that copy should be long or short, that a headline must have ‘you’ in it, that the company’s name must appear in the lower right-hand corner.
All he asks—no, not asks but demands—is that we give him an ad that is fresh, interesting and compelling.
This creative freedom does two things. First of all, it gives us enormous satisfaction and pride in our work. Secondly, it results in constantly new and exciting advertising — as each one of us makes his own, very individual contribution.
How does the agency hire such people?
Well, first of all, we do not hand the job over to the Personnel Department.
The supervisors shoulder the burden themselves. All of us, including our Assistant Supervisors, share the job of screening and interviewing applicants.
If we interviewed everyone who wanted to work at DDB, we’d be doing nothing else all day.
So first all applicants are to send us samples of their best work.
If that looks promising, we ask them to leave their whole sample book for us to look through.
If that’s interesting, they’re practically hired.
The interview is really secondary.
It doesn’t matter much to us whether our prospective employees are old or young, male or female, chic or shabby. All that matters is the work. Interestingly enough, long and heavy experience at other agencies is not necessarily in the applicant’s favor. We often prefer someone who has not been brainwashed by a mediocre agency.
You’ll probably want to know whether we pay our people especially high salaries?
Well, not compared with a lot of other agencies around New York. We’re sort of average, I would say. But after about two years with DDB, most people’s value in the job market has risen so much, that they can easily double their DDB salary at some other agency.
Unfortunately, we lose some good people that way.
What kind of people are DDB creative people?
Well, whatever type you had in mind, you are probably mistaken. We are not one type, but a mixture — a melting-pot — a miniature America, or rather a miniature New York.
I think we’re a good cross-section of a democracy, with people of every conceivable religion, nationality, background and personality represented.
This is so because there is only one requirement for working at DDB — you’ve got to be terrifically talented. And that is all. So we get all sorts.
We have a very serious writer who was an electronic engineer before we hired him. And another one who was a bartender. We have a Pop-Mod-Beatnik art director with long frizzy hair and purple velvet jacket. We have woman writer who’s the sensible mother of four children, and another one who’s a swinging chick with mile-long eyelashes and skirts way above her knees.
We have Jews and Italians and Irish and Anglo-Saxons.
We have kids right out of school and mature men in their late 40’s.
The only thing we all share is ability — and a healthy respect for each other’s work.
The fact that each one of us is surrounded by excellent writers and art directors could possibly be very frustrating. But strangely enough, the tough competition acts only as a stimulus. As I walk down the corridors, I see samples of current work pinned up on the art directors’ walls.
Every month we screen new commercials for the agency staff, I see examples of what my colleagues are doing on TV. And instead of saying “How am I ever going to keep up with this?” I find myself excited.
I mentioned the work pinned on the art directors’ walls. We are, I’m afraid, very vain. There’s no art director’s office, and very few copywriters’ offices at DDB that are not decorated with the occupants’ own ads.
In fact, Bill Bernbach will sometimes give prospective clients a survey of the agency’s work by taking them on a tour of art directors’ offices.
Now that we do so much more television than print, there is a real shortage of wall decorating material. Many art directors, with considerable embarrassment, have to display ads they did months or even years ago. Any day now I expect to see our people install projectors in their office, which will give a constantly repeated screening of the occupant’s own TV commercials, for the benefit of visitors.
You must forgive us this vanity. We do not have the plush offices or the spectacular salaries of some of our colleagues at other agencies. A great part of our compensation comes in the form of pride in our work. Messrs. Doyle, Dane and Bernbach realize this, and they encourage us to enter our work at festivals and shows, such as the Art Directors Show, The Andy Awards, the American International TV Festivals, The Gold Key Awards and others.
This satisfaction in our work has an interesting side effect. You will have a difficult time finding, among DDB copywriters, a man with a half-written novel in his desk drawer. Or an art director who rushes home to his easel to work on his latest oil painting. Most of us get full creative satisfaction between 9:30 and 5:30. Of course we have hobbies — but they are only hobbies, not outlets for a frustrated creative instinct.
Now I have told you that we are a mixed bunch of crazy characters, fiercely competitive, very vain, and creatively satisfied. There is one thing I must add to round out the picture. We’re sloppy.
Visitors are often astonished at our “shirt-sleeve look.” Almost every other large agency has very impressive offices at a prestige address. DDB is in a very inelegant building on the unfashionable side of town. Our furniture is functional. Our decor is minimal. And for some strange reason — perhaps a kind of reverse snobbishness — there is a sort of pride in our ‘poorhouse’ look.
This situation goes so far that any fixing-up of offices at the occupant’s own expense is frowned upon. The only exception is when someone is elected a Vice-President. Then he receives a certain sum of money from the agency to upgrade his office according to his own taste. That is considered o.k. by the rest of us, because he is now entitled to a status symbol. But God help the man who spends his own money on what we feel is undeserved showiness. It’s considered very bad form.
While we’re on the subject of what kind of people we are, you might be interested to know a little bit of my own history. I am one of those strange types I mentioned earlier. I am not American at all and English is not my native language. I was born in Germany and brought up in England.
When I had finished my education in America, I got a secretarial job in an advertising agency for only one reason. They paid $5 a week more than the New York Times, which had also offered me a job. If it had been the other way around, I would probably be a reporter today, or the Editor of the Food or Fashion page.
At that time, DDB was just beginning to be known, and I wrote a letter to Phyllis Robinson, who was then Copy Chief, telling her why I wanted to work there. That was all. I had very little else to show, and I was hired mostly on the basis of this letter.
Everything I know about copywriting I learned from Phyllis, and Bill Bernbach. These were the days of the classic early Bernbach’s ads and the beginning of Chemstrand.
The agency had 45 employees and Bill Bernbach said it was “a perfect size” and he wouldn’t mind if it never grew any bigger. (Today we have 1300 employees all over the world.)
As DDB grew more famous, its creative people began to be wooed by other agencies. I succumbed to such a temptation and went elsewhere for much more money and, as I thought, much more glory.
Two years and four agencies later I asked Bill and Phyllis if they would have me back. Many of the people who left DDB have felt the same way — that, after all, it is the best of all possible agencies. I was one of the lucky ones who returned.
The last thing I’d like to tell you about, very briefly, is how DDB has changed between 1949, when I first knew it, and 1966. It is not the same agency —and I don’t just mean in size or billings. Our ‘style’ has changed and changed and changed again over the years. And by ‘style’ I do not mean a layout or type style, but rather a point-of-view, an attitude to the consumer. As the market changed — as the consumer became more sophisticated — as DDB matured — our ads developed along with it.
One very important influence in this constant change is the fact that so many of our innovations were copied. As soon as that happens, we feel compelled to abandon this innovation and search and search for something fresh.
We have a way of referring to these various styles by the year in which they saw their heyday. We say something looks like “DDB 1954” or “DDB 1962”, as though it were a vintage year on a wine bottle.
At home I have a bulging file of yellowed old proofs — ads I did over the span of a decade or more, I do not like to look through these files. They make me wince. I am embarrassed by the things I was so proud of five or even three years ago. I think that is, on the whole, a healthy sign. It seems to indicate that my standards — along with the agency’s standards — are constantly rising.
I told you before how Bill Bernbach has managed to foster a whole generation of creative people to work under his leadership. He himself has changed, along with his agency — or rather, the agency has changed along with him. Bill is no longer the rebel, the iconoclast — he has become the statesman.
He startled me the other day when he turned down a commercial that hit very, very hard and mercilessly a competitive product. He said, “There’s one thing more important than doing good advertising. And that is being nice people.”
Bill Bernbach’s agency is no longer the child prodigy of the advertising business. We are in the ripeness of young middle age.
ln terms of human ages, l would say Doyle Dane Bernbach feels like just about 40. We are the generation of John F. Kennedy.
Kennedy’s favorite word was “vigor”. I think that is a word that fits well into the DDB situation today.
In the last few years, an amazing number of very bright, very imaginative young agencies have sprung up all over New York. The press delights in talking about these agencies as giving DDB tough competition. What most people don’t realize is that in almost every case the creative movers in these agencies are former DDBers.
Take Papert, Koenig, Lois. Take Jack Tinker & Partners. Or Wells, Rich, Green.
Or Gilbert. Our friends and former associates are among the guiding lights in them all.
I think it’s very exciting that we are now spawning this litter of bright young agencies. I also think it is great that we no longer monopolize the award shows. There are many new agency names among the medal winners — and DDB people, instead of just being recipients, now sit on the committees, judge the shows, teach advertising courses at universities, and give speeches. Most of us, however, must give our speeches to the same familiar Americans in the same old place.
I am extremely fortunate. I had a fresh, new — to me extremely interesting — audience, in one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited.
Thank you with all my heart.”
‘My Favorite Ad’ by Lore Parker, (DDB News, 1969).
This is one of the first ads I ever did.
The art director was a guy called Helmut Krone.
It started out as a column newspaper ad on brandied cherries.
Under the word ‘delicious’ was a brandied cherry with stem.
Under the words ‘wasn’t it?’ was the stem alone.
There was an intelligent young account man on Barton’s called Neil Schreckinger.
He thought the ad was so brilliant that it should run in a larger space.
So the column cherry became a full-page box ad.
It turned into something of a classic and ran many times.
In those days an ad with a one-two punch was quite revolutionary.
CANCER CAMPAIGN (DDB NEWS, 1971).
One of the most famous public-service campaign slogans of them all has been retired. “Fight cancer with a check-up and a check” has served as the theme of the American Cancer Society’s annual spring fund-raising drive for years and years – the ACS itself isn’t certain how many.
But when the ACS asked DDB to do its 1971 campaign advertising, and Bill Bernbach said yes, the Society was ready and eager for a new theme.
“The old slogan was just a pleasant play on words” notes Copywriter Lore Parker..
“It’d been pulled out of a speech someone made years ago. They felt, and we agreed, that they needed something more powerful for today. Something that really said what the Society stands for.”
There was something else the ACS wanted changed from past campaigns: instead of using scare tactics (which they felt turned people off), they wanted a campaign that would speak of hope… of goals and of achievements.
DDB couldn’t have agreed more. And the agency people on the account – Art Director Bill Taubin, Copywriter Lore, Account Men Ari Kopelman, Joe O’Donnell and Grant Roberts learned that there was much to be optimistic about.
Bill and Lore went to work on concepts . What they sought was a way of motivating people to give all the $1 and $2 contributions that make up the bulk of the Society’s funds. A way of saying “This ad was done especially for the business press.”
Grant Roberts, Joe O’Donnell and Arie Kopelman – who lent their names to the ‘firm’ – were the account men for the Cancer campaign.
George Parker is husband of Copywriter Lore Parker; he’s not superstitious. “We’re close … your dollar can help us over the top.”
They thought about the words that had launched the U.S. space program – President Kennedy’s commitment in 1961 to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
Mightn’t the final push in cancer research be launched with a phrase such as “We want to find a cure for cancer by 1975”?
Objections by the ACS. First of all, the word ‘cure’ was wrong in the context.
Some cancer IS being cured today, by surgery and by drugs.
As for specifying a date – 1975, by which cancer would finally be conquered totally, the ACS declined to commit itself.
“We want to wipe out cancer in your lifetime” suggested Lore. Fine, said the ACS. And that’s the new theme.
Getting approval on the body copy was tougher – at least on the ads that describe progress in cancer tests and possible cures.
“We kept being told ‘The Medical Board would never let us say that’. So we asked for, and received, permission to present the copy to the ACS’s Medical Board ourselves” Bill and Lore related, “and we argued every point with them. We had to persuade them that the way you write when you’re motivating people to give money is different from the way you write for a scientific journal.
That was the biggest battle we fought and the one we’re most proud of.”
In the course of these discussions, Bill and Lore learned about a 19-year-old boy who had contracted acute leukaemia when he was 13, and had been given six weeks to live.
He was one of the first to be given a new form of drug treatment, paid for with cancer research funds.
Today, six years later, Mike is alive and well and buzzes around on a motorcycle like any normal 19-year-old might. It is just possible that he can be considered ‘cured’. How about doing a commercial using him to tell his story? Horrors, said the board. One doesn’t use patients in commercials.
Undaunted, the DDBers went in search of Mike’s doctor, who had no objection to a commercial with and about Mike. He sent them to Mike’s mother, who had no objection. She introduced them to Mike, who would LOVE to make a commercial, thank you very much.
And he did, with Justin Crasto producing.
The ACS thinks it’s great, and Mike and Justin have become close friends.
The ACS is now thinking about getting Mike onto some TV talk shows to help promote the fundraising drive.
There’s also a commercial starring John Wayne.
Wayne, in the course of a routine check-up several years ago, was found to have lung cancer.
It was discovered in time for surgery to be effective. He was, of course, happy to make this commercial for nothing. So was everyone else who donated time, talent, etc. to the campaign.
One commercial that didn’t get approval for production was a kind of “The Day We’re Working For” idea. It would be filmed to look like a medical meeting at which it is announced that the final cure for cancer has been found. “It was killed because it was ‘too convincing’.”
Lore explained “Even if we supered ‘A Dramatization’ on the screen, there might be people who would believe it was an actual news report, just as people thought Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’ was really happening.”
Already the ACS has been promised the equivalent of $4 million in air time for the commercials during April, May and June-the months of its drive.
Print ads are scheduled for 2500 issues of consumer and business magazines, with a combined circulation of nearly 700 million.A lot of time and space. Hopefully, it will bring in a lot of dollars, to help wipe out cancer in your lifetime.
A 2nd INTERVIEW WITH LORE PARKER, (IDEA magazine, 1970).
What is the best quality a copywriter can have?
I don’t think there is a single quality, but a combination of qualities.
And the absence of any one of these things might ruin things.
A good copywriter must first of all have talent.
Talent is something you have to be born with, something you cannot acquire by any amount of education and experience.
If the talent isn’t there, you might as well forget about being a copywriter.
But talent is only the beginning.
The first thing you have to learn, and this is something you can learn, is how to discipline this talent and how to exercise judgement. And this is where many of our junior writers have the hardest time. They come up with six or eight or ten ideas, and are unable to pick the one good idea out of the lot. You have to be able to be your own editor.
I might add here that a good advertising “writer” is not strictly someone who is good at writing, but someone who is good at coming up with ideas. Writing, the use of words, is the least of it.
It’s only the clothing of the idea.
One example of this that comes to mind is the Avis campaign “We’re only No.2, so we try harder.”
There are no clever or dramatic words here, no pun, no poetic or elegant writing. As a matter of fact, the words are very plain, almost ugly.
What matters is the psychological concept.
Then there has to be a certain amount of plain, old-fashioned professionalism.
Many of our bright young people think that breaking rules is all that counts. But it’s not as easy as that.
You have to know what the rules are before you break them.
You have to really know your field, study what others have done, and then go out and not just do it different, but do it better.
Then there are, of course, personality facts that help make a good copywriter. One of them is the ability to live with the many disappointments and setbacks
DDB talks about the difference in atmosphere at the agency, how would you recommend it?
Atmosphere, that’s exactly why I came back to DDB.
Other agencies want to pull people out of DDB, they just add people from DDB to their work.
But they should have acknowledged the talent and added it to their peers, but in reality their talent isn’t used at all.
Those agencies don’t want to change the traditional way they operate, they have a creative review board that is sacred and ‘should never be violated’.
Even though they wanted something amazing, they wouldn’t like it when it was shown to them.
So, for example, when you propose a DDB- type campaign, they try to tweak it, change it from the original idea.
Of course, the young agencies are producing the great ads today; Wells Rich Green, Royce Holland Calloway, Jack Tinker, etc.
They’re either founded by someone who was once a member of DDB, or have added them to important positions such as management.
These people may still prefer the freedom.
It does not mean this is a madcap job, just that you should be familiar with what you are doing, and once you know it, you should have complete freedom within the given limits.
It doesn’t seem to be effective for a long-established, conservative agency to add and work with DDB people. Now, I’m watching over what happens to Ron Rosenfeld, who went to J Walter Thompson, it has left one of its new creative divisions entirely to Rosenfeld.
In other words, this is the same as Rosenfeld opening a new agency of his own, because no one but him decides the environment and the way people work.
I wish him great success.
Do you think a talented copywriter can make a good ads in a bad agency?
I think the atmosphere of an advertising agency is the second most important thing after talent.
It’s that talent combined with an environment where you can fully demonstrate your abilities.
It gives them complete freedom within a certain frame.
Bill allows people in the creative department to work in their own way.
Those who are now Copy Chiefs and Copy Supervisors are doing the same.
It’s been 20 years since DDB was created, but I think this is the secret that keeps DDB advertising fresh.
DDB is no longer a young agency, it’s a middle-aged, some say “The current DDB isn’t as innovative as it used to be, and it’s no longer fresh enough to break tradition.”
But I think it’s pretty fresh after 20 years.
And we’re doing a good job by sowing DDB seeds into the advertising world and creating a new generation of image breakers, like Wells Rich Greene.
Apart from a good atmosphere, what else should copywriters look for in an agency?
You also need a title.
Older DDB’s were very cheap salaries, because a lot of people wanted to work at DDB. And because I like DDB, my salary was cheap.
Still, it was a principle that DDB was good and only good people were there.
But I could barely afford to eat (laughs).
Some people lowered their salaries to move to DDB.
In this respect, we have not always done the right thing.
In the early days, DDB abused their image to attracting people, there were a lot of people who wanted to work here, so took lower salaries.
But this often had bad consequences.
Once they settled down in DDB, they started to be dissatisfied with the low salary. Even now, there are still people who are being pulled out for twice the salary of DDB.
This became a problem and was improved, it’s now about average.
It feels like it’s not as bad as it used to be.
But the people at DDB think that good salary is not as important as a good atmosphere.
Oh yeah, I have to add that in the United States, unlike Japan, entertainment expenses and overseas expenses are not paid.
How do you feel if your work is rejected?
We’re dealing with multimillion dollar budgets, and people are going to say “no” to you. It may be your supervisor, or it may be the client.
Some writers go to pieces if one word of their precious copy is touched.
But if you’re a pro, you sit down and re-think your copy and then come up with something equally good or even better.
There is never just one idea that will solve an advertising problem.
It’s not like a mathematical problem that has only one correct solution.
Also, you should be reasonably co-operative, because you’re not working in an ivory tower. You’re not a novelist sitting in your attic, writing your big novel all by yourself. You’re in a very social situation, and your work must be able to intermesh with art directors, producers, clients, actors.
You must be able to get along with people.
What does not matter is whether you’re hip or square, outgoing or introverted, Jewish or Italian, a family man or a gay blade, a flashy or a conservative dresser.
We have all types at DDB.
Give us two of your favourite ads you’ve created over the last few years, and why?
One is “Capricious Cranberry”, a commercial for Ocean Spray Cranberries.
I was interested in the uniqueness of this product, which is unique to the fact that there are no competitors.
This is the fruit of cranberries.
Until then, Americans were unfamiliar.
Except for the cranberry sauce on the turkey at Thanks Giving.
I didn’t even think of it as a fruit that would become juice.
Fruits such as oranges, pineapples, apples and grapes are more common, they look beautiful, they are juicy and have a popular taste.
Cranberries are a little better than other juice fruits.
Was there a place? It’s small, red, hard, and it’s like a stubborn guy who doesn’t try to make juice.
I couldn’t find anything I could brag about, but DDB has a good old tradition of turning what seems to be a disadvantage into a positive.
So, we dramatized and showed consumers that taking juice from this small, hard, and hard-to-reach berry wouldn’t be possible for the average person, there’s no better way than buying an Ocean Spray.
This little berry’s stubbornness is even more clearly contrasted by the very easy-to-juice orange.
So Ocean Spray says “It’s not very difficult. If you want to do it, you can do it too. But leave the cranberries for us”.
Furthermore, here, these little cranberries have a unique spirit. That’s why you can make a very nice and nourishing juice.
What I personally like most about this commercial, though it doesn’t show up on the screen, is the humming and mumbling of the housewife who is hurting her hands with the berry.
I searched for a lot of bad words to find expressions that wouldn’t get caught in the broadcast code. For example “God damn!”, “Don’t do that!” but “Damn it!” is good.
It won the World’s No. 1 Trophy at the 1967 Art Directors Club,
I’m very happy that many people still like this commercial.
Another commercial, that became a series, I did with the Art Director Len Sirowitz; Pack Winds hand lotion.
We came up with a seemingly weird-speaking lady, a speaker.
I remembered my childhood, when I was studying how human hands seemed to be talking, and I modified this memory.
An eye-catching face in my hand.
I decided to have the singer and actress Eartha Kitt, who has the most sexy voice in the world.
The commercial was technically very difficult.
For each commercial, Len drew a face on the model’s hand, each took about an hour.
I had recorded Eartha Kitt’s voice in advance, but I spent days practicing the model moving her hands to her voice.
We also considered a sales film in which Talking Hand smokes very nicely while talking to a Packwinds salesman.
But I didn’t make this a commercial because I know how strongly Bernbach opposes smoking commercials.
Did you know that DDB does not accept tobacco accounts?
This series has penetrated into the hearts of the audience and has become widely known.
It may have been the children who were enthusiastic about this commercial, but at least it didn’t seem to be the consumer we wanted.
But these kids always buy it for their mom’s birthday or Christmas gifts.
What do you think makes a good copywriter?
First, you basically have to be talented.
If there is no inborn talent it’s absolutely impossible.
You may as well quit immediately.
There’s the talent to create and then there’s the talent to use the written word.
This is really the basics, and there are some things that need to be built on top of this, that can be learned.
One of them is how to develop your ability to make decisions.
This seems to be difficult for young copywriters at DDB, despite their talent. Also judgment; are you able to choose the best idea from eight?
The DDB system lets you choose what you think is the best.
Next to judgment, you need to know the rules of the game.
Young, talented people today seem to think that breaking existing old rules makes sense, but they don’t seem to know the stage before that, that is, what the rules are.
You shouldn’t be able to break the rules until you know why they are there.
But it seems difficult for them.
Second is how to write, because words are the clothing of an idea, if there’s only clothing if there’s no content.
In DDB, a good writer is not someone who can write, but someone who can have a conversation.
For example, in the case of the Avis campaign, the concept is “We are No. 2”.
It’s a psychological concept, and then words follow.
The third is personality.
It can be called the spirit of cooperation within the organization.
There is one thing that everyone must have in common; the power to endure this job, as it is associated with disappointment and discouragement.
There are times when I’m in charge of a multi-million dollar account and it happens that my opinion doesn’t get through or it gets fixed.
Even in such a case, even if the words I used have been changed a little, I don’t want to be disappointed. I want you to acquire a more elastic way of thinking. Also, if you think about it for a while, a better idea might come to you.
Copywriters aren’t stuck in ivory towers or writing small books in an attic. It’s not a profession that you can do without communicating with other people, so you have to take into account the relationships with your surroundings, social relationships, clients and producers.
In other words, we must work together to overcome difficult relationships.
I hope you don’t think that emphasizing that will wear down your precious talent.
Also, it doesn’t matter if you’re a hippy, square, foreigner, internal, Jew, Italian, have a family, don’t have a family, are a playboy, wear orthodox clothes, cheap clothes, expensive clothes, we have all types of people in DDB.
Thanks again to Vikki Ross for her help with this post.