Mayhem — The Leo Burnett ‘Critter’ as anti-critter…

He’s there. Right alongside the Pillsbury Doughboy and The Jolly Green Giant and Tony the Tiger and Charley the Tuna. That snarly, bearded, with little piece of band-aid tape above his eye purveyor of all that is wrong with the world known as “Mayhem,” spokescritter for good ole’ Allstate insurance. Espousing all the little things that go wrong, this critter has taken his proud place among the greatest that the Leo Burnett agency has ever created. How do I know? I heard him ripped off this morning. On the radio. Some health company was touting some undecipherable disease and they gave that disease a persona just like Mayhem. But not as good. By a longshot. But still, boxed into a corner, the agency creatives reverted to the ultimate sign of someone having come up with a “big” idea. They ripped it off. (I could almost hear the cash registers ch-chinging at the Allstate company!) Another winner for Leo. And I thought, would Leo himself have approved of this downtrodden anarchistic force of evil as a spokes-critter? I do believe he would have. See, he liked the sounds of ch-chinging too.

Leo does it again.


My first run in with D.O. (David Ogilvy)

I was lucky enough to arrive at 2 East 48 Street when D.O. was still around, although he was sort of uber-emeritus at the time and it wasn’t really clear what he was doing there. In the first few years I worked there, I think I saw him a total of three to four times — and never in an official business capacity. Still, the magnitude of those encounters stays with me. Here’s one — my boss, Neil Martineau, stopped by my office with D.O. and said, “David, I’d like to introduce you to one of our young writers.” I looked up from my typewriter (yes, typewriter) and there he was, the man, in a tweed suit with vest in the middle of a scorching Manhattan summer afternoon. I said, “Pleased to meet you,” and shook his hand. He said, “How old are you?” I said, “I’m 23.” He paused for a moment, and then he said, “Nobody’s 23!” And with a smile, he walked on.


Creative? It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it and how you say that…

The ‘what you say’ v. ‘how you say it’ question has been dogging advertising since just after that person thought of the chicken v. egg question. Now, we’ve even added ‘where you say it’ to the conundrum.

Well, here’s the answer. It’s not ‘how you say it.’ It’s ‘how you say it and how you say it.’ What I mean by that is — you have to say it brilliantly, and then, make it even better than that. For an explanation, consider the high bar of advertising communications — the demonstration ad. It is not enough to come up with the right demonstration that will prove the efficacy of what you’re communicating (nothing convices people like seeing it with their own eyes.) No. Once you’ve come up with that killer demonstration (no mean feat considering most products and almost all services are generic commodities — but hey, if this were easy everyone would be doing it.) No, (to repeat), once you’ve come up with that great demonstration, you have to make it even greater. Consider the all-time masters of this, Doyle Dane Bernbach in the early 60’s. To show how economical the VW was, they came up with the idea of showing all the things you could get in addition to the Beetle for the same cost as getting just a normal car. But they had to show that in a way that would make it stick. Just the idea, just the demonstration, as great as it is, wasn’t enough. So they found side by side houses and had people wheel up all the stuff, in a parade. And then, with some brilliant writing called the problem “keeping up with the Kremplers.” Or consider another ad to show how chip free a nail polish is. Someone came up with the idea of painting it on a ping pong ball and watching people play a game with it! Damn.

Don’t say it. Show it. And then show it better.

Now, about that chicken and egg thing…