It’s a shame that Pat Kelly isn’t better remembered. I was lucky enough to take a TV writing class from him at New York’s School of Visual Arts. His most famous work: he invented the entire Federal Express campaign at Ally & Gargano, made some epochal commercials with the legendary director Joe Selemaier. He also did some incredible work at Leo Burnett when he was starting in the business — much of his work is brilliant. The class was fantastic. His critiques were gems. But the most damning thing he could say about anybody’s work, no matter how ‘brilliant’ it appeared to be was, “Nah — it’s an ad.”
Let me digress for a moment to paint the picture. He looks like Lowell George of the rock band “Little Feet,” long hair, long beard, denim overalls. He commutes down from Woodstock, where I hear he lives in a converted chicken shack. I’m not kidding.
But this is the guy that wrote “fast-talking-man,” and the line “when it absolutely positively has to be there over night.”
And when he sees an ad he doesn’t like, he says it’s because “it’s an ad.” As a young creative person, I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about. I mean, wasn’t that what we were supposed to be doing, making great ads? It took me a while and lot of hard work to truly integrate the genius of Kelly’s observation — people don’t like ads. They like interesting things that show themselves themselves. If something looks or feels like and ad (or to be PC, a website, a promotional event, a press release, etc.) they TURN OFF. Ads scream — “HEY, IGNORE ME I’M JUST AN AD AND I’M TRYING TO BAMBOOZLE YOU!!!”
So Pat, thanks. And rest easy wherever you are.